Thursday, December 11

Goodby To All That by Robert Graves

Goodbye to All That (Penguin Modern Classics)
I just posted this review on I thought I would add it here because it is a book that is worth a look. I'm afraid we are falling into a world were we only read books the books on school reading lists and the bestsellers tables.

Can I just say how shocked I am that NO one (on goodreads) has reviewed this one?

I will admit, originally written in 1928(ish) and then updated in the 1950s, its not exactly a page turner by today's standers. For the time though, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be glued to its pages.

I picked this up for two reasons. 1)I'm a sucker for British History and 2) you can't read anything about Robert Graves (who is famous for his poetry) without seeing a mention of the book that first coined the phrase, "Goodbye to All That."

That said, I admit that in the middle of this one I found myself wondering why I had picked it up at all. Its a WWI autobiography, the non-fictional Hemingway. Graves, isn't falling in love with nurses or driving ambulances, he's stepping over headless bodies on his way into the trench and wonder why the guy next to him hasn't moved for 5 hours.

Still, he offers a unique perspective. Graves was raised in the British boarding schools and groomed to be the perfect British gentlemen, but his mother was German. He spent many holidays on the Continent as a child. The most interesting part of his whole tail is his ability to link his childhood memories to the battle field. He is very aware of the fact that his uncle is a German General and his cousins were killed by British solders.

I think that since of familiarity explodes the general consensus that WWI was the biggest waist of a war ever fought on European Soil. As a child of the 1980s, it is almost impossible to read the first chapter of the World War histories without being tainted by the second. This book allows you to do that though. It is written through the eyes of young man who has never seen a war like this before, and is sure he never will again.

The other really revealing thing is the death toll. The true since of how an entire generation was effected by the conflict. 1 in 4 of Grave's Prep school classmates were killed on the battlefield and of the 3 left standing, 2 of them were injured at least once, often more. That is staggering. It isn't something that we can relate to at all really.

And yet, with all the carnage going on. All the death. The gas attacks. Graves doesn't sit on his high horse and preach to the choir. He merely tells his story. He introduces us to the characters, lays out the tales of time they spent together, then almost as an after thought adds..."He was killed at..." or "He was later blinded by...".

Anyway. It is worth it to trudge through this one because it gives such a unique perspective. You can't help but come out different on the other side. You do have to be in the mood though.

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