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Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man Paperback – 31 Jan 1975
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Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon is a superb evocation of the Edwardian age from one of Britain's best-loved war poets.
About the Author
Siegfried Sassoon was born in 1886 and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. He served in the trenches during the First World War, where he began to write the poems for which he is remembered. Despatched as 'shell-shocked' to hospital, he organised public protest against the war. His poetry initially met with little response, but his reputation grew steadily in the following decades. Apart from the War Poems of 1919, he published eight volumes of verse during his lifetime. But it is as a novelist and autobiographer that he is perhaps better known. Sassoon's semi-autobiographical trilogy, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928), Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) and Sherston's Progress (1936), was outstandingly successful. He published several more volumes of autobiography, including Siegfried's Journey (1945), before his death in 1967.
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This is the semi-autobiographical account of a sensitive and lonely personality whose adolescence persists into his mid-twenties, yet the seemingly indolent and snobbish lifestyle of hunting transforms him from Mummy’s boy to fearless aggressor. Sassoon will one day win the Military Cross for rescuing wounded men in France in 1916.
This book is about the original extreme sport and the age-old bond between horse and rider in the very last days of man’s dependency upon his four-hoofed friends. Each horse Sassoon owns develops his riding- and his character- in a new way. But this wonderful account of rural pursuits is far more than a horsey story. It is an unsentimental snapshot of English country life at the dawn of the twentieth century: a frozen glimpse of a society soon to be obliterated with the passing of its ‘doomed youth’ and replaced by motor cars and mass production. It makes you want to be able to go back in time to the village green flower show and warn them all not to let it happen…
The quality of the writing makes the mundane illuminated by a poetic choice of prose. The descriptions of horsemanship, of the village cricket game, of Sharston's deep respect for those socially above him in status, are all fascinating. So too are the descriptions of the early stages of the Great War. The second book in the trilogy is even better, but this is a wonderful taster for what comes next.
An England swept away in 1914 written with honesty by someone who could have returned a hero but threw it away like his millatry cross in a later book.
I recommend this is read in conjunction with Robert Graves "Good by to all that" another casualty of the war.
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