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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 September 2011
Hollis' book is a marvelous achievement. I have admired Thomas' poetry for years but knew remarkably little about the man beyond his literary reputation, his war-service and his background in reviewing and 'nature' writing. This book presents us with an often unsympathetic figure, largely because of his troubled family-life where he often seems surly, irascible, even psychologically brutal with his wife and children. (His struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide are sympathetically treated, but Hollis does not shy away from the awful impact his moods must have had on those closest to him. This can make for disturbing reading!) Yet Hollis explores his writing wonderfully, brilliantly contextualising it in the literary culture of the period. The Georgians, the Poetry Bookshop, The Dymock Poets, Pound, Yeats, Rupert Brooke, WH Davis and many others move in and out of focus as the narrative progresses and are fascinating in themselves. However, the key interest must be Thomas's initially hesitant movement from increasingly 'jobbing' prose to poetry. What an extraordinary burst of creativity in his last couple of years! Robert Frost's place in Thomas's life is thoroughly explored and emerges as the great formative friendship, the midwife to Thomas's emergence as a poet of great importance.

Hollis writes beautifully, with the right balance of sensitive analysis when considering the poems (this is NOT, thankfully a text book approach to the work) and he is always sympathetic, though not blinkered, about his subject. By the end, I felt I understood the work far more, albeit at the cost of admiring Thomas the man a good deal less. And another caveat is the rather brusque rendering of Thomas's last days, though one could argue the very brevity of the account paradoxically emphasises the terrible randomness and ubiquity of such deaths.

The Kindle edition is well-formatted and the illustrations are fully accessible: the maps are rather less so. For Kindle readers, I would also recommend The Collected Poems of Edward Thomas, which seems to be without the frequent glitches and proof reading howlers of so many cheap Kindle poetry collections.
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on 30 November 2016
This is rightly a prize winning biographical study of a relatively minor but very interesting literary figure, whose best poem, in my view, Adlestrop, is the high point of what was just the beginning of a poet's development. It is most interesting because it shows very clearly how psychological, social and technical issues are fused in the making of a poet and of poems. For anyone interested in that most critical period of the development of 20th century poetry, when Yeats, Eliot and Pound rubbed shoulders with Wilfred Owen et al, this is a must read study.
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on 23 August 2012
Unlike other reviewers here I had never heard of this poet and knew nothing of, nor liked, poetry. As this was a daily deal and I wanted something different to read I thought I would give it a go. It was a very interesting book especially as it was set around the First World War. I liked the insight into the way the poetry was put together and enjoyed the poems enough to download 'The Collected Poems'. If you want a heavily academic book then this will probably not satisfy you, but if, like me, you just want an introduction into the world of poetry and an interesting read then this is it.
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on 16 June 2013
I've been reading enthusiastic reviews of this book ever since it was published in 2012 - from these I believed it to be a close examination of the development of the friendship of Robert Frost and Edward Thomas and of Thomas's decision to enlist after an incident with a gamekeeper. It is much more than that - it is a well researched and well written account of the last four years of Thomas's life. Firstly it covers the English poetry scene in the opening decade of the 20th century. You may get rather more detail than you want for your taste ie the differences between the Georgians and the Imagists are academic to me but if that's what you're looking for you will get a cogent explanation here. The early part of the narrative has lots of references to Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Paul Nash, WH Davies, WB Yeats. This leads in to the burgeoning Frost/Thomas relationship. And finally the part of the book which really interested me - the description of Thomas's time in the army.

Throughout the period covered, Thomas is a self-absorbed irrascible husband and a negligent father sacrificing family relations on the altar of his writing. He is very careless of his wife's emotional equilibrium by indulging in close relationships with other women -Holly Webb, Eleanor Farjeon and Edna Clarke Hall. Hollis gives an interesting analysis of Helen Thomas's handling of her husband's lady friends encouraging his sense of independence, understanding his desires, praising his attractiveness and appealing subtly to the impeccability of his morals.

The developing poet's voice is intricately followed in the latter part of the biography with several examples of his work and the influences surrounding their composition. Particularly moving is "Not to Keep" featuring a wounded soldier invalided home to his grateful wife knowing that the sooner the recovery the sooner the return to action This is not based upon Thomas biographically but an incident which is, is eloquently described by Hollis - the chapter where Thomas takes leave of his wife to go to France and it is heart-rending.

This is a chunky read and probably best spaced out over a few weeks.
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on 15 May 2014
I would describe this as a scholarly work as evidenced by the fact that at the end of each chapter there are several pages listing detailed references. It is dispassionately written, the author does not stretch facts to throw the poet into a rosey glow. In fact if anything Edward Thomas comes out of it as not a particularly likeable person. Apparently he did eventually join the army and found himself in France, but his military career was cut short by enemy fire. Unlike others, he was unable to write poetry while he was a serving officer. Not a lot was mentioned in the book about his actual poetry, but having read the book I went back to the poetry and found it wonderful. So fresh and direct.
The book itself I would tend to class as a reference work for Edward Thomas and his times.
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on 28 October 2012
Mathew Hollis, himself a very good poet -I discovered some of his poems recently, specially 'Wintering'- succeeds on describing accuratedly, not only the way followed by Thomas to become a poet -with details about how he wrote, his fight with words and feelings- but also the cultural ambiance of England in these troubled times.
The book deals with the personal life of Thomas, his friendships, his loves, and also his rages, his insecurities. It is a book written with a lot of respect but without unconditional adoration, showing the readers the weakness and the strenght of the poet as a man. The third part, when Edward Thomas is already on the way to war, keeps the tension of the reader until the fatal, inevitable, end.
If I had to ask for something, I would only liked, as a non expert, to know a little bit more about Thomas literary influences, what he had read, who where his mentors.
But the detailed account of the Thomas' friendship with Robert Frost and their mutual influence, is also one of the values of this book. Indeed, reading Thomas or Frost after reading this biography gives us a pertinent, not at all too rational or too intellectual, insight to better appreciate their poems, the circunstances of their poetry.
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on 9 May 2018
I bought this on behalf of a relation and am unable, therefore, to make a valid comment about the book. However, I am led to believe it is a very good publication
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on 8 February 2017
This a wonderful introduction to the life and poetry of Edward Thomas. The start and end of the book are deeply moving. To get the most out of the book on Kindle also buy the complete poems of Edward Thomas so you can enjoy his words in context..
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on 13 July 2013
This is a first-rate account of the last years of Edward Thomas. After a lifetime of depression and struggle he finally came to the realisation (aided by American poet Robert Frost) that his prose work that had occupied his writing career was poetry in all but name. He endured financial and moral struggles, the latter with himself, when the first world war broke out. Finally he enlisted and while training wrote some of the best war poetry in the English language. He went to France as his duty called and died in Arras at Easter 1917.
Hollis enables us to understand the struggles and the angst that beset Edward and tainted his life with his family. The account is truthful and tender and deeply sympathetic.
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on 26 March 2012
Matthew Hollis has written a remarkable book chronicling the last years of Edward Thomas, which saw the man changed into a great poet. As it is said many times in the book, poetry came to Thomas during those years, and Hollis has made a striking attempt at examining what has fuelled this desire and kept it burning. The book is never over informational and does a good job of joining historical and biographical facts in perfect doses to yield a pleasurable reading experience. Highly recommended to people who want to learn more not just about Edward Thomas and how he became to be one of the greatest war poets but also about his times and literary circle.
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