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VINE VOICEon 24 November 2017
Robert Graves is famous today mainly for two things: this memoir of his early life, focusing on his experiences in the trenches of the First World War and his published poetry; and as the author, later in life, of the renowned historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God. He has an easy style in this memoir, which covers the first 33 or so years of his life until his departure from the UK to live in Majorca in 1929. His upbringing and schooling were conventional by the middle class standards of the time ("my sisters were brought up to wish themselves boys, to be shocked at the idea of woman’s suffrage, and not to expect so expensive an education as their brothers"), though for a book written nearly 90 years ago he is quite open about the homoeroticism in his independent school, Charterhouse. His wartime experiences and those of his contemporaries at Charterhouse make up the core of the book, as he says "at least one in three of my generation at school died; because they all took commissions as soon as they could, most of them in the infantry and Royal Flying Corps". Against the backdrop of the fighting and its impact on his mental state, he describes his difficult relationship with his parents, with their conventional outlook on patriotism and duty, and the hostility he sometimes faced due to his mother being German; the bonds that were formed between soldiers in the trenches and the completely inability of he and his contemporaries to find a common language with his parents and others at home, due to their vastly different experiences and assumptions about the reality of warfare. Graves knew many of the other greats of the time, in particular Siegfried Sassoon during the war, and Thomas Hardy in his old age after it. The end of the war is described very laconically, and the last section about his life after the war, getting married to Nancy and raising their four children will be of less interest to most readers. He hints at further in his life from 1926 and abruptly says that "The remainder of this story, from 1926 until today, is dramatic but unpublishable". In 1929, on publishing this memoir, he went abroad, "resolved never to make England my home again; which explains the ‘Goodbye to All That’ of this title". In his epilogue he explains a bit why this was, but this reader is left feeling a bit puzzled at the suddenness of all this.
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on 19 June 2011
A very good read, charting the early life of RG from his early childhood and how he hated his time at Charterhouse.He joined up straight from school, fought on the Western Front as a commissioned officer to the time he, his wife and family spent in Egypt when he was a Professor at Cairo University.
This book is an important account of an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and his experiences of the Great War on the Western Front.
I read this book over a weekend I just could not put it down!
Anyone with an interest in WW1 who has read other books on the subject should read this book too!
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on 17 April 2015
One of the first and greatest of biographical accounts of WW1. Written not long after the war, it's delightful in its old school understated heroic ways. It thankfully predates the cloying modern equivalents. Discretion is the best part of valour. Interesting about his life, briefly, after the war - taking him to roughly age 35.
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on 7 August 2017
First-hand and harrowing account of one who was there and had the capacity to describe this tremendous tragedy
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on 5 September 2014
I read this book many years ago. I bought this small hardback as this is a book I would like to last and not yellow. His account of his war experiences is riveting, and while his life before and after was more humdrum, he is an engaging writer, and his account is never less than interesting.
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on 6 June 2017
This is a terrific book for anyone interested in life during WW1 - the description of life in the trenches is both harrowing and graphic. Graves transition from middle class snob to socialist defines the life journey off his early years.
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on 29 January 2012
For sheer mastery of the English language this book is on a level with the other great writers of the period. It isn't necessary to re-read any sentence as it is so concise and well written. For a very personal report of WW1 it is outstanding. Highly recommended.
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on 1 May 2017
A book that makes you think, very good read
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on 9 March 2017
An extraordinary book.
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on 16 October 2013
I very much liked this book. Even if the whole story may not honour all the facts - as the Review in the book itself indicates - it is very good reading and a testament of what happened in those tragic years. Highly recommended.
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