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Goodbye Soldier (Spike Milligan War Memoirs) Paperback – 6 Sep 2012
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The most irreverent, hilarious book about the war that I have ever read (Sunday Express)
Brilliant verbal pyrotechnics ... throwaway lines and marvelous anecdotes (Daily Mail)
Desperately funny, vivid, vulgar (Sunday Times)
Close in stature to Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear in his command of the profound art of nonsense (Guardian)
Milligan is the Great God to all of us (John Cleese)
The Godfather of Alternative Comedy (Eddie Izzard)
That absolutely glorious way of looking at things differently. A great man (Stephen Fry)
Manifestly a genius, a comic surrealist genius and had no equal (Terry Wogan)
A totally original comedy writer (Michael Palin)
About the Author
Spike Milligan was one of the greatest and most influential comedians of the twentieth century. Born in India in 1918, he served in the Royal Artillery during WWII in North Africa and Italy. At the end of the war, he forged a career as a jazz musician, sketch-show writer and performer, before joining forces with Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe to form the legendary Goon Show. Until his death in 2002, he had success as on stage and screen and as the author of over eighty books of fiction, memoir, poetry, plays, cartoons and children's stories.
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Such a complex life he lived. Being ripped away from British India where he had lived an idyllic childhood and dumped into the wet and windy English winter weather. He had begun to find his niche in life with jazz music when he was snatched away again by HMG to fight in WW2. Nevertheless, like many conscript soldiers, he managed to make the best of it and even enjoy many of the places he found himself in for their historic value or natural beauty.
Injury and severe mental trauma found him downgraded and sent to the comprehensive concert party organisation where so many British stars of post war entertainment cut their teeth. He lived like a prince among men in beautiful exotic locations and even found a love which he would lament for the rest of his life. There's always that element of tragedy and his method of overcoming it in every novel he's written.
I don't just recommend you read this one. I think you should read them all but start with the first volume of his war memoirs: Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (Spike Milligan War Memoirs). Read all five before you open this one so that you have a knowledge of everything he refers back to. I promise you it's an excellent experience.
However, this is Spike writing what seems to be form a crystal clear memory, as the details are so precise that it seems hard to believe he could remember so much. Whether that is true or not does not affect the enjoyment of this book. Spike Milligan can only bear his soul, with all its totured views on life, God, love and war. For those, like me, who are confirmed "Goonatics" it will delight as all Spike's work does. For those with a passing interest it will introduce the foundation of the mans talent which later produced a revolution in comedy that the world has never recovered from. Basically, you will laugh!
The war is over and Spike, still stationed in Italy, is just about to be demobbed. Now with Combined Services Entertainment and playing the fiddle in the Bill Hall Trio, a comedy-jazz combo, he tours Italy and Austria as part of a Forces show called the Barbary Coast. He falls desperately in love with one of the cast, the pretty - there are lots of photos - but outstandingly dull Toni. Most of the book is an account of Spike spooning after her, walking hand-in hand through Vienna, visiting Rome, going on holiday to Capri etc etc. If his other five war books often felt like a blog from the front line this is more like a gap year Facebook page.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect after 275 pages of lovidoviness is Spike's strange emotional disconnect at the end as he leaves Italy and his supposed love Toni behind, barely looking back. Maybe people were just burned out and fatalistic after five years of war, but to a modern reader the lack of introspection strikes as odd.
Autobiography is not everyone's cup of tea, actually, its not mine, but this collection of memoirs is different. As I said in my opening , it's irreverent. At times it's a little bawdy. It is a portrait of the classic Sad Clown. A modern day Grimaldi. It's a good read. Try it.
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