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on 28 October 2017
I am drawn to books about the great war from all perspectives and have read a great many over the years.
This particular book is thoroughly absorbing, emotional and utterly incredible!
The characters & dialogue draw you in & you genuinely care about them.
I did predict the ending BUT it was nonetheless very sad.
I definitely recommend this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 May 2014
Originally from Australia, Frederic Manning settled in the UK in 1903, and when war broke out in 1914 he enlisted in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry as Private 19022. He saw action at the Somme, experiencing at first hand life in the trenches, and in 1929 published The Middle Part of Fortune, the book that grew out of his wartime experience. This book we now know as Her Privates We and it is a chronicle of the lives of ordinary soldiers in the trenches, centred around Bourne, an enigmatic and detached character, based on Manning himself.

Widely regarded as one of the best novels of World War One, and one of the best war novels ever published, it is an authentic and visceral account of the horror, brutality, fear and sheer tedium and discomfort of war, the dirt and squalor, the difficulties of daily life, the gulf between officers and soldiers. Essentially it is a novel not about combat but about the relationships between men, the loyalty, the tenderness beneath the roughness, the compassion beneath the banter, incorporating the realistic and earthy conversations of men under permanent stress.

I can understand why this book is so acclaimed, but I found it hard to engage with. Bourne himself is not a likeable character, and although he inspires friendship amongst his fellow soldiers, he remains aloof and controlled, always an outsider. It reads more like a fly-on-the-wall documentary rather than a fully fleshed novel. It is often compared to Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, but I think it is the lesser book, perhaps because it is less emotional. Nevertheless, it is indeed a powerful and sometimes moving portrait of ordinary soldiers at war, and in its unsentimental and hard-hitting descriptions will surely remain a classic of war literature.
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on 27 January 2016
Quite an endearing book written from someone who served on the Western Front in 1916, focusing on the experiences of the privates. Trying hard to find some comfort in seeking out alcohol and food beyond the standard army grub, and their experiences of dealing with the French population As mentioned in early reviews, there are some passages in French left untranslated in the text.
.The comradeship that develops becomes important as the men eventually experience the full extent of the fighting.
There are no scenes focusing on leave- and the books opens with the men already in France. The fact that privates' lives seems so controlled by army regulations adds to the sense of fatalism, and entrapment. Though chapters start with Shakespeare quotes, there is a lack of drama, and more emphasis on the monotony of army life.
'Her Privates We' doesn't attempt to answer the wider questions of why the war was fought. Seems a different war compared with (say) Sassoon's 'Memoirs of an Infantry Officer ' And now that the 'disenchanted' view of the Great War seems set to be popular with another generation, it would be interesting to see if this book returns to favour during the Centenary years as seems quite understated in some respects.
But overall a welcome attempt to portray the Great War experience of the privates who fought.
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on 29 April 2015
My maternal grandfather fought on the Western Front in WW1 as a private and ended the war as a serjeant, which how it was written then. I therefore tend to read books and watch TV and films about WW1 trying to compare his hard life to my easy one. I have developed a dislike of most accounts which are written by officers, about officers and which seem to be an extension of jolly japes at boarding school. This book is written by an intelligent and educated man who was a private, it has probably given me the best account the life that my grandfather suffered in WW1 and I don't think that I could have put up with it, but then we each lived within the constraints of our own times. I highly recommend this book. I have only given it 4* because the Kindle version has some irritating, unexpected line breaks which interfere with the flow of the read.
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on 22 March 2015
I was quite disappointed really It is quite obvious that the author is a lover of Shakespeare with long quotes at the start of each chapter. There is a story in there somewhere you will find it is hidden in the flamboyant embellished writing which becomes quite tedious reading when one is wishing to get on with the story! An understanding of French is and advantage as it there are no translations to some paragraphs in story. Not my best purchase takes some reading but to someone else it may be very much to their liking.
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on 29 December 2014
Brilliant - and this accolade is truly awarded for a book based on personal experiences in WW1. The realism can be no other, the soldiers men who try to get the best out of circumstances which are totally out of their personal control. They curse, blaspheme, get lice, seek sex and strangely enough food, food, food! . It is human life seen from am enforced military environment - kindness, cruelty, respect and disdain - this must be the prime target for study for aficionados of WW1. Manning fictionalised the names of the personnel involved but the authenticity of emotions, reactions and ups and downs of this enforced confinement of many men of many backgrounds within close quarters has to be read. Formerly published under the title HER SOLDIERS WE. Read it if you really want to know how the man on the street really reacted when soldiering at this crucial time.
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on 12 October 2014
Terrific book about WW1.
Was originally banned because of its free use of four letter words, intended to be a realistic account of soldiers' language.
It's a moving book and gives a very compelling view of what it might have been like to be a private soldier in the build up to a "big push" on the Somme. The tension grows through the tedious and pointless manoeuvres, to the move up to the frontline and finally going over the top. The chapter dealing with the final battle is short but very powerful.
Really very impressive and moving.
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on 25 March 2014
I first read this in 1965 during army service and thought then that it was the ultimate description of life in WW1. I still do, and so have been searching for the book now for many years. Unfortunately I remembered it only as 'Her Soldiers We' by an anonymous writer. I then saw it in a list of recommended WW1 books in the Telegraph and realised the correct title. If you wish to know the true meaning of war, I thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 12 April 2014
Gives a graphic image of the everyday awfulness of life in the trenches. Brought home to me how much of their time was spent in apparently aimless marching from location to location, billet to billet in between the more dramatic attacks on the enemy's front line. Manning gets under the skin of the serving Tommy and brings out the subtle variations in the way they viewed their plight. I found it rather over-written at times to the point where meaning was needlessly obscure.
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on 15 December 2011
I read this book, this edition actually,about 40 years ago. it is the only book I have ever read twice, brilliant. I think I might read it again, it tells the story of the real front line in WWI, mud and guts, told by someone who was there. Buy it and read it, you won't be sorry.
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