8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Understated and misunderstood,
This review is from: Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (FF Classics) (Paperback)
I was prompted to write a review following some of the negative appraisals on here about this fabulous novel.
It is a semi autobiographical account of his life and as such, he uses his poetic language and authors narrative to present the life of his alter ego George Sherston. Many of the events exactly mirror Sassoons own experience but it should be remembered that he remains detached from the emotional elements of the story as they unfold.
Sassoons experience of the Great War, (much like his counterpart Wilfred Owen) was not 'typical' of the working class Tommy in the trenches. It wouldn't be because he was an Officer and as such the experience differed from the Private in the trench as much as their social stature would have. This is evident in Sassoons novel where he discusses his extended sick leave in England or being billetted in farm houses with 'wine on tap' the night before battles.
However, it is his experience of the war and to dismiss it as 'not representative'of the First World War is missing the point entirely. I'm sure many survivors of the Great War (particularly the Officer classes) would relate to the vision as presented by Sassoon in this book.
I think a study of Sassoon's life shows that he was a brave soldier, an inspiring leader and very highly thought of by his men. His attitude towards 'servants' would have been typical of a man of his social standing during that period. It does not mean he did not care or dismissed their worth. Far from it, Sassoon championed their cause more as he saw the plight of the Infantry man first hand and was himself subjected to the worst horrors of the Western Front.
This novel provides a fictionalised character with a factual history. After reading Captain J C Dunn's 'The War the Infantry Knew' a few years ago, it more than supports Sassoons picture of war as experienced by his Battalion. Many of the comments in that book from peers of Sassoons tell a similar tale in a recognisable voice. This book is a classic, not to be dismissed as 'not typical' of the experience of the Great War. Anyone who believes this to be the case, should revisit their historical understanding of the period and its protagonists.