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VINE VOICEon 7 January 2005
When I decided to read this book, I did so with trepidation. Previously, I had read All Quiet on The Western Front and Farewell to Arms and, even though I wanted to learn more about The First World War, I was worried about the diary format of Goodbye to All That.
I was, of course, more than pleasantly surprised. Robert Graves is lucid and engaging through-out. Even in the beginning, when he recalls his education at Harrow, I found it fascinating and was hooked. Robert Graves has a wonderful way of writing, whereby it's as if he's only having a casual conversation. In fact, all the way through, Graves employs this friendly method of communication, even when he's discussing his time in the trenches. Naturally, there are more than a few harrowing occasions when the author conveys his dispair, especially towards the end, where Graves becomes increasingly disillusioned with the war, but, even so, the engaging dialogue abides.
The book is highly interesting for several reasons. Firstly, and most prominently, there is much insight into the then-life of an officer, such as the antiquated hierarchy system, and trench war-fare, the old gas masks, the fun the officers had behind the lines, and the military tribunal system. And there is much more on that besides. There is also much about Robert Graves' family and his upbringing.
I enjoyed the book particularly for it descriptions of Siegfried Sassoon and his and Graves' friendship. Having such an intimate description of so emminent a poet is invaluable, and adds real depth to any of Sassoon's work you might read afterward.
Goodbye to All That is a great book. It is well crafted, and intriguing, and, more than anything, it is an important work of military literature.
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on 22 April 2002
Having read Blunden to Sassoon, Frank Richards to Remarque, it is this book which I constantly come back to. I can't quite single out why- whether its his descriptions of pre WW1 England, or the horrors of the war itself, or what happened in the immediate aftermath... its just so well pieced together. Unpretentious, graphic, gripping-
I visited the battlefield in France and Belgioum a couple of years ago and even though fully aware of the range of books and guides available- I consciously only took this one- and so we took in Graves' 'Brickstacks', and Cuinchy , and Givenchy etc- everything came to life.
It really is such a remarkable book I can't praise it enough, and anyone who wants to get a grip on this most important of times really needs to take the time out to read Goodbye to All That.
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on 14 November 2000
I read this book directly after reading All Quiet On The Western Front and found it a very intersting comparison. In many ways I found that Graves' detatched detailing of the horror was the most distressing. It's amazing how different two perspectives can be on essentially the same experience. The story described in this autobiography is a quite shocking but incredible one. You will especially enjoy it if you hold a specific interest either WW1, the early 20th century literary scene or, even better, both.
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on 10 August 2000
I have always thought this book is vintage Graves: sentimental, varied in tone, boisterous at times, proving him an absolute genius with words and most of all, an incurable romantic. Among other contemporary prose classics of the war: clear-headed Sassoon, ethereal Blunden and, if you like, earth-bound Manning, Graves' book is probably the most charming, the most "fun" (insofar as a book about WWI could be fun) of all. At the time the book was published in 1929, both Blunden and Sassoon reacted violently against the fabricated passages in Graves' narrative which they found offensive. To Graves, however, it was not the faithful recording of actual events, but depiction of the spirit of men in war..., that really mattered. To me the most striking point is how little bitterness there is in this work, bearing in mind that many of the poets who survived the Great War went on to suffer unbearable nightmares and hauntings for decades to come. It is a proof of the tenacity and sheer energy of Graves' lively, uncompromising, compulsive personality, so brilliantly conveyed here, that in the 70 years since its publication his work has been considered the most striking, and the most abstractly faithful representation of the mad, agonising and comically absurd affair that was the Great War.
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on 24 August 1999
Read this book in awe. Graves recounts his WW1 experience with such humanity sandwiched between accounts of his early public school life and post-war travels. He lead a somewhat charmed life in the trenches through the most terrible battles and military blunders. The fact that he survived the series of campaigns is remarkable enough and worthy of a book by itself. He attempts to put the war in some sort of context in his life by leading into the book with tales from his schooldays and emerging from the war to undergraduate life and finally as a lecturer in Cairo. This only serves to focus more on the war years as if by placing a white frame around a dark canvas. It is a remarkable read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 April 2014
I read this because I was fascinated to hear a recent BBC documentary which claimed that this book was partly responsible for poisoning public opinion on the war. It's worth reading to test that assertion alone and for many other reasons, including some of the details of trench warfare, his fascinating relationship with Seigfried Sassoon, some of the events away from battle, and Martin Jarvis's excellent reading.

(I liked it so much I went on the buy his novels of the American war of independence. That was a mistake.)

If you are interested in the war I wholeheartedly recommend reading this and All Quiet on the Western Front which, by departing from strict truth, somehow tells a deeper truth. It also includes a great deal of research on the detail of trench warfare (while Graves limits himself to what he can remember). An absolute gem which you might not know about is The Ice-Cream War by William Boyd, about the first world war in Africa. If you want to read just one novel about the war, pick that one and you won't regret it.
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on 17 April 2014
To all WW1 enthusiasts out there who may be prejudiced about reading a poet's sentimental autobiography, please do not ignore this book. The insight into his childhood and homo-erotic schoolboy days are interesting reading and reflect the period and social class very well - it gives insight into the minds and decisions of many young public schoolboys of that era who led men into battle in WW1. The book is full of excellent anecdotes and his time in the trenches is extremely interesting, informative and as good as any historical war diary or modern history book. I have to admit that I was prejudiced towards this book but have been greatly enriched by reading it - I'd advise you to do the same; you also get an insight into other WW1 poets and also other intellectuals and famous characters of the time. Beautifully written and very enjoyable; you feel as though you really get to know him. Personally, I failed to understand his sexuality, but this is not important or relevant to the brilliance of the book
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 November 2008
This highly dramatic (not wonderful) autobiography covers the first thirty years of the author's life, which were heavily marked by religion, public school and World War I.

Education, religion
Robert Graves was educated in a patriarchal system where he learned `to masquerade as a gentleman'.
The religion of his youth left him with lifelong psychological scars: `religion developed in me a great capacity for fear - I was perpetually tortured by the fear of hell - a superstitious conscience, and a sexual embarrassment.'

Public school
For him, public school was `a fundamental evil' with very few decent schoolmasters, while nearly all the time was spent at Latin and Greek. R. Graves felt painfully `the oppression of the spirit, like sitting in a chilly cellar'. Writing literature (poems) was considered as a strong proof of insanity.
He was permanently bullied, until he took boxing lessons. He also didn't like the gay atmosphere where `boys used each other as convenient sex-instruments.'

The WW I massacre
The war experience left him shell-shocked.
The average life expectancy of an infantry subaltern was at some stages of the war only about three months. Morale became so low that an officer had to shoot a man from his company `to get the rest out of the trench.'
All the soldiers wanted, was to be wounded and to be set free to leave this horrible war: `A bullet in his neck. I was delighted. David should now be away long enough to escape perhaps even the rest of the war. Then came the news that David was dead.'
The intellectual community understood perfectly what was happening: `We no longer saw the war as one between trade-rivals: its continuance seemed merely a sacrifice of the idealistic younger generation to the stupidity and self-protective alarm of the elder.'

Together with Henri Barbusse's `Under Fire', Robert Graves`s autobiography constitutes a truly realistic report on the senseless slaughtering of innocent youngsters during WW I. It stands in sharp contrast to the works on the same subject by the German author Ernst Jünger who used his huge literary talent to glorify (!) war and his war experience.
Robert Graves wrote an intensely emotional and bitter book which is a must read for all those interested in the history of WW I and of mankind.
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on 25 June 2002
This is a most amazing book. It sounds totally current, although written decades ago. If you want to know the reality of war, not just World War One, but ALL wars, read this book. Graves is a brilliant writer... I couldn't put this book down.
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on 25 March 2001
I bought this book for my history class & I have to say it's amazing. It's not happy clappy, this book gets to the rawity of war and it's obvious Robert Graves isn't afraid to say what it was really like for those men who gave their lives for US! The people are real and that just adds to the read. This book is for people who want to know the horror of war in all its "greatness"
Glenn Simpson
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