Edwardian and Great War novel,
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This review is from: Death of a Hero (Paperback)
The fictional biography of George Winterbourne, from his birth in 1890, to his death in the trenches during the very last days of The Great War.
Many readers will wonder whether this is semi-autobiographical. Without doubt the strongest section of the book is the final one covering George's wartime experiences. This section stands comparison with anything written by Edmund Blunden and Ford Madox Ford. George lives the 'triple strain' of 'his personal life, exasperation with army routine and that of battle'. The cumulative effect of war is expertly told and I read this section in one sitting.
The first third of the novel is a savage attack on the end of Victorian/Edwardian Establishment or 'the swine' as Aldington calls them. George is portrayed as 'a keeper of the flame' against the 'Aunt Sallies' and 'grotesques' of British society. The ferocity of the attack and it's bitterness took me by surprise. The trial and sentencing of Oscar Wilde is portrayed as the fissure in society creating a cultural 'us and them'.
For whatever reason, the middle third of the book does not reach the same heights. At times it reads as little more than an argument in favour of open marriage or 'wise promiscuity' as the author describes it. I'm sure it was very avant garde in it's day, now it's just old hat but this is the backdrop to the only meaningful relationships with women that George experiences. There also seems to be an endless stream of bohemian gatherings full of people showing off in a 'chaos of witticisms'. However, still a recommended read.