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Customer Review

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars False, headline grabbing claim mars competent account., 6 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (Hardcover)
There is much that is thorough and good in this book, though nothing that was not already pretty common knowledge.

However, it was ruined for me by the claims Hollis made to 'understand ' the reasons for Thomas's enlisting. The hackneyed old argument about the gamekeeper incident and Thomas's anxiety about his courage is just plausible as a small component in his decision.
But the passage about the famous poem,The Road not Taken, by Frost having a clinching influence is frankly ludicrous. Hard not to believe it's there because it is a famous poem.The letter Thomas wrote about it shows , for me, that it made scarcely any impact on him at all.
Thomas made it clear time and time again why he was enlisting: to fight for the soil of the country he loved. He could not continue to appreciate it aesthetically, write about it, express his tenderness and passion for it, yet refuse to defend it.
Hollis's claim is an insult to Thomas's maturity and patriotism, a patriotism which may now seem strange to us but in the context of his times was very general.
I am seriously annoyed that people are reading this book and taking in this message!
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Dec 2011, 19:16:06 GMT
Absolutely. The Frost poem claim is a perfect example of "perhaps . . . " becoming "of course" and all without the benefit of a safety net!

Posted on 15 Jan 2012, 11:14:24 GMT
Withnail67 says:
I agree. The focus of the book is, of course, literary - but Hollis' bibliography of the Great War listed is very thin and generally very outdated - Official History, Barnett and AJP Taylor. Granted there are more recent books than this listed...Thomas' death in action is a key part of his cultural resonance and deserves better treatment than this. Readers wanting more on the Battle of Arras as experienced by British and Commonwealth troops could try Jonathan Nicholl's book Cheerful Sacrifice. Saying this, I really enjoyed the evocation of the pre-war literary world and really relished Hollis' writing.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2014, 18:08:01 GMT
THFC70 says:
I also don't buy the reason for him signing up to be because of "the gamekeeper incident". If anything, his miserable family life, depression, poverty and failure to be accepted as a writer in his own right always made me think that joining up was a way out of all of that. Should he die, his family would be free of him and all the misery he bought (whilst being provided for via the system) .... should he survive, they'd have got used to being without him, and he could move on to a new life without them. Just my opinion, I wouldn't claim it is even accurate!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2014, 20:37:05 GMT
Elisabeth T. says:
I'm sure some would agree , to the point of claiming he was suicidal in volunteering for the dangerous role he finally took. But the war diary and his letters home to Helen don't bear this out. My novel, A Conscious Englishman(Margaret Keeping) kept as close as possible to Edward's own expressed thoughts. I believe that however much he abused Helen he valued and needed her and kept striving to find a cure for his irritability and depression - ironically it seemed the war was doing just that.
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