15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A book of two halves,
This review is from: Wilfred Owen: A New Biography (Paperback)
When I received this book last Christmas I was slightly shocked at how many pages there appeared to be. I admit that I knew very little about Wilfred Owen apart from the fact that he wrote poetry during World War 1 and he died very young(25 years of age). I immediately thought that there was no way that his life story could fill almost 500 pages but I was wrong. This is surely the definitive biography about him and a brilliant job is done by Dominic Hibberd.
Pretty much the first half of the book is about his pre-war years and the times that Owen spent at school, as a teacher, a vicar's assistant and the time he lived in France for a while. At times I did feel a little impatient as I really wanted to know what occured during his wartime experiences. I must admit though that Hibberd has done a staggering amount of research including trying hard to disect Owen's brother Harold's at times brutal censorship of the letters written by Wilfred. It was interesting to learn about Wilfred's weaknesses such as being a Mother's boy, a hypochondriac and the slow realisation that he was gay. As you read this book you do become aware that it all leads up to the horrors of war and the author takes you there slowly but very surely. When we finally arrive at 1917 and the true reality of what Owen and many thousands more went through it is chilling and makes for a rivetting read.
The true strength of this book is without a doubt the descriptions of the fighting, killing and pure fear of what so many men went through as they battled against the odds. At one time Owen's CO accused him of cowardice as he cracked under the strain of constant shelling and spending the night next to a colleague that had been blown to pieces. The fact that he was eventually awarded the Military Cross showed how ridiculous the accusation was but it was something that haunted him as he took several months to recover. This excellent book makes you wonder just how you would react in dreadful situations that so many brave men had to encounter. I won't go into all the detail about Wilfred's war experiences but suffice to say he did have a torrid time and it is because of this that he left us with his beautifully written poetry about war.
This is a superbly written book. Yes, I did wish there was more of Wilfred Owen's poetry and at times I did have a chuckle at the apparant pomposity of the circle of poets that shared a part of his life like Sassoon, Graves and Monro. The story of Owen's life is varied, interesting and ultimately very moving especially as he writes to his Mother about his hopes for the future. His future was to be cut tragically short but he left a legacy with his poetry that will last a lifetime and is still very relevant today.