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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 30 August 2008
GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT is the autobiography of the 34 year old Robert Graves, who, at this book's 1929 publication, was a former army captain who served with distinction in The Great War, an emerging poet, and a father, separated from his wife, with four young children. As a Yank, I'm not quite sure where Graves fit in the English class system of his day. But his family was distinguished and comfortable and Graves endured the bullying at Charterhouse, a prominent English public school.

Certainly, the two great themes of GBTAT are life in the British army in World War I and the friendships of Graves, the poet. For anyone with special interests in the war, I recommend Chapter 15, where he describes his participation in the disastrous Battle of Loos, a poorly planned and executed debacle where many senior officers showed haughty indifference to the plight of the common soldier. Those interested in the lives of poets might read Chapter 28, where Graves describes the many poets living in his midst at Oxford in 1919. Meanwhile, Chapter 29 offers profiles of T.E. Lawrence, his friend, and Thomas Hardy, who Graves visits while biking with his wife.

Graves's style in GBTAT is fabulous. This style is very efficient--he never lingers--yet also slightly discursive. This has the effect of building a rich texture around the distinctive theme of each chapter. In Chapter 9, for example, Graves describes his experiences as a rock climber. Here, his subject is the techniques and dangers of this sport, as well as its sometimes eccentric practitioners. But, he also works in a story about George Mallory, a mountaineer who died on Mount Everest, who was a friend and teacher at Charterhouse. This allows Graves to comment on the grim culture of the public schools of his day, where the beneficent Mallory was wasted. At the end of this chapter, my marginalia reads: fluid and very interesting.

Likewise, Graves's voice is also fabulous. Basically, he is an honest observer, always near a center of interest, who is never seriously political. As he writes, he both sketches the traditions of his era while he personifies the aspirations and experiences of his rising generation. Once in a while, there is a dated remark. But even this adds to GBTAT, since it helps Graves summon and explore a vanished world. A great work!
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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 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 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 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 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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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 4 November 2007
I cannot read a book, of any genre, which is not well written, an increasingly rare commodity in the 21stC, nor do I want to read if the author is not opening new horizons to me, new ways of looking at something I thought I already knew. This book wins all my praise on both counts and provides the most exciting and moving first-hand account of the first 25 years of the 20thC that anyone could ever read. I own 3 copies.
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on 23 December 2014
Well packaged and arrived before the estimated delivery date. Beautiful hard-back book, but smaller than a regular book. This is a Christmas present for my daughter.
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on 14 October 2014
A moving telling of what WW1 was really like for the British soldier.
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