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on 22 July 2017
Another in the book group’s between-the-wars season. Graves remembers his early years 1895-1929: his childhood, his unhappy school days at Charterhouse, his first marriage, his poetry writing, his friendship with Siegfried Sassoon, his meeting with Thomas Hardy, but mainly his experience as an officer in the WWI trenches. A gruellingly unflinching account of the realities of that war, in a matter-of-fact style that leaves the reader to supply the emotion.
“I shook the sleeper by the arm and noticed suddenly the hole in the back of his head. He had taken off the boot and sock to pull the trigger of his rifle with one toe; the muzzle was in his mouth.
‘Why did he do it?’ I asked.
‘He went through the last push, sir, and that sent him a bit queer; on top of that he got bad news from Limerick about his girl and another chap.’
Two Irish officers came up. ‘We’ve had several of these lately,’ one of them told me. Then he said to the other: ‘While I remember, Callaghan, don’t forget to write to his next-of-kin. Usual sort of letter; tell them he died a soldier’s death, anything you like. I’m not going to report it as suicide.’”
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on 1 January 2013
Reading 'Goodbye to all that' many decades after it was written I found a remarkably frank picture of life of the privileged class prior to, during, and following the 1st World War. The world was changing fast and Graves describes how his conservative parents never forgave him for (eventually) calling himself a socialist.

Graves hated Charterhouse ('from my first moment I suffered an oppression of spirit that I hesitate to recall in its full intensity') and describes how he learned to cope with the totally anti-intellectual values that prevailed. At Charterhouse success in games made the man: he considered cricket the most objectionable because it wasted the most time in the best part of the year. Fortunately boxing success gave Graves the necessary status to cope.

Graves did not suffer fools gladly, and he valued personal strengths - whether found in the so-called privileged or working classes. His honesty here is remarkable.

In his harrowing descriptions of life in the 1st World War trenches I found myself thinking rather along the lines of Black Adder - would I have gone readily 'over the top' (probably), or would I have shown the conspicuous bravery of Graves and many others? (probably not). Survival was a matter of luck, and Graves survived. 'We learned not to duck a rifle bullet because, once heard, it must have missed'. Graves explains that hardly one soldier in a hundred was inspired by religious feeling, even of the crudest kind; and they had little respect for Anglican regimental chaplains who were remarkably out of touch with their troops - they scuttled up to the front to do their job and quickly scuttled back again.

Graves pulled strings to get his own way, and his privileged background helped here. He knew a remarkable number of poets, painters and writers, and his descriptions of these people - for example Thomas Hardy, and Lawrence, is both fair and revealing.

Graves remained a virgin until he married. There was an easy availability of brothels for the WW1 troops, which, together with the knowledge that life in the trenches could be very short, would have tempted many. He came to women late. Graves explains that in English preparatory and public schools romance was necessarily homosexual. The opposite sex was despised and treated as something obscene.

When Graves married, his wife, Nancy, warned him she was a feminist and that he had to be careful about what he said about women. They were both shocked by The Treaty of Versailles which seemed destined to cause another war some day. 'Nancy and I took all this to heart and called ourselves socialists'. Later Nancy wanted somehow 'to be dis-married but not by divorce, ...so that she and I could live together without any legal or religious obligation to do so'.

There are touches of ironic humour such as when an error in a Morse code message sent his battalion to Cork instead of York!

I have my Kindle to thank for leading me to browse and then read this book. I am very glad I did.
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on 10 April 2017
I decided to read this book after a discussion on radio 4's " Good reads". I found it easy to read and it is an interesting account of a time and lifestyle long gone. The accounts of his time in the trenches are told in a very matter of fact way which belies the horror. The way he tells this gives an insight into how many of the men coped with the life. It is, of course, a view from the officer class rather than that of the ordinary soldier. However, I found the account of his life post war less engaging and this probably reflects a man who had learned to control his emotions. It does feel that the latter part of the book is tagged on , almost as if written by another author which, I suppose is exactly what he was. A changed man.
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on 21 February 2014
I should have read this classic at school but left it much later to read. Young Graves seems really unlikeable and I wanted to give up reading the section about his childhood. I persevered and his description of life and death in the trenches was worth it. I quite forgave him for being such a shallow youngster and ended up admiring him for his conduct during WW1. Shame that the final section of the book confirmed my original view of him. For a real insight into the horrors of war this takes some beating.
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on 21 November 2014
This must be one of the most enlightening books ever written about the first world war, or, indeed any war. Robert Graves tells his story in an honest and open narrative, from the point of view of an infantryman who was there. He tells it hard, he tells it true, read one page and you will cry, turn that page and you will laugh.
Perhaps some of our so called leaders in power today should be made to read this, instead of addressing our troops in gung-ho fashion, dressed in shirt sleeves trying to be one of the boys, when in truth, they would jump if a paper bag was burst behind them .
We need a copy in every 6th.form classroom
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on 14 August 2017
Autobiographical. Mainly memorable for its vivid account of trench warfare in WW1and life in the post war period. The earlier section about life at public schools is also interesting and somewhat disturbing. A compelling read for anyone interested in WW1 and growing up in the early part of C20.
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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 23 February 2013
An outstanding recollection of life during the Great War. It is so helpful for those who wish to attempt to think constructively about 'the war to end all wars', to read about how those involved at the time felt and thought. We have heard so much from those who would characterize all involved as deluded. It is good to be reminded of the real challenges the army faced and the camerarderie felt towards those they served with.

A first class read.
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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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