A famous autobiographical account of life as a young soldier in the first World War trenches. Robert Graves, who went on to write I, Claudius, has given to posterity here one of the all-time great insights into the experience of war.More
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A compelling and account of WW1, beautifully read
This, to my surprise, is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard. Rather ashamed of never reading it before because of my horror of violence, I found the book heartbreaking certainly, but told with calm and even humour at times. This meant that the appalling conditions could be taken in because of the lightness of touch of the writing.Details were fascinating. I hadn't realised, for example, that Robert Graves had become friends with Siegfried Sassoon and others during the war.It is interesting that Graves' story begins with his hard experiences of public school life - and this too perhaps explains why so many heroic young men from such schools who flocked to be officers were able to accept the nasty brutish experience of France. But he makes sure too that we see the bravery and resilience of the men - and how their war was often made so much worse by the insensitivity and even idiocy of the heirarchy whose uniforms never saw blood and mud. The section on the language and attitudes he becomes aware of from the jingoists back in England makes one want to weep.Robert Graves was one of the very few young officers who survived the war - and even afterwards his post war experience makes it clear that the mental suffering of those years was very great even for men like him who were able to keep their sense of humour and perspective. He never once betrays any self pity - and his evident fury at the waste of life caused by the unnecessary prolonging of the war after 1915 is only quietly expressed - and is all the more powerful for that.
It has something of the flavour of "Birdsong" - but what makes it so remarkable is that, unlike Sebastian Faulkes' excellent novel, "Goodbye to all That" is a first hand series of true memories, written with honesty and humour, compassion for others and no plea for pity for himself. The scenes of actual battle are matter of fact - and all the more powerful for that.
Martin Jarvis is very easy to listen to and he is one of my favourite narrators.His range - from William stories to the horrors of war - is impressive.
No. Sometimes one wanted to stop to let parts of the account sink in. I listened mainly while walking in the country. I think I heard it all in about five sessions.
The UK Minister of Education has suggested in this centenary year that accounts of WW1 that emphasise to the public the horrors are only because "left wing academics" choose to "feed myths" about World War One. One wonders if he has ever actually read first hand accounts such as this. Robert Graves, Siegfried Sasson, Wilfred Owen and others, whose medals proved their outstanding bravery, were all too aware of the hell on earth of the trenches - because they were there in the bloody thick of it. Now more than ever we must take on board the message of their writing and not allow politicians to enlist our "patriotism" for their own ends, mere trade advantage or empire building.