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Paul in L.A.
5.0 out of 5 starsaccurate
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2011
My grandfather fought in the 2nd battle of the Somme and lived another 65 years without ever being willing to speak about it. However, he read this book in the mid-century and said if you want to know what it was really like, read this. This is the reprint of the original which was considered too extreme for general publication in the '20's (the wide release was an edited version called "Her Privates We."
An outstanding book. A story told with craft and intensity. A soldier's view of warfare, told with neither a bone to pick nor a chip on the shoulder. Subtle, evocative and engaging. You wont' be disappointed. The book is out of copyright and the publishers didn't spend anything on proofing. There are a number of typos in this version of the book.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe greatest English novel about the Great War
Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2012
I am writing this in response to the reviewer who said that he was unimpressed by this book. There is, I believe, a critical consensus that this is the greatest novel in English about the Great War. This consensus includes, among others, the very favorable assessment of Bernard Bergonzi in Heroes’ Twilight, his study of Great War literature.
In this book, Manning achieves something which no other Great War writer I have read - not Graves, not Blunden, not Sassoon, not Remarque - comes close to achieving: he captures the "mateship" which enabled infantrymen to survive the war. Mateship was not friendship -- the three soldiers who are mates in this book, Bourne, Shem, and Martlow, are so different that they could not possibly have been friends in peacetime -- yet they are totally devoted to each others' welfare while in service. And in the main character, Bourne, a highly intelligent, wry observer, who resolutely declines a commission, Manning created a perfect medium for a brilliant commentary on the war experience viewed from the perspective of the lower ranks.
This book is not about fighting, but about how men developed the small, close-knit support networks that enabled them to survive mentally and spiritually before and after combat. Since World War II produced far less great fiction than World War I, and nothing approaching this book in sheer brilliance, I think it is fair to say that this is the greatest English-language war novel of the first half of the twentieth century.
2.0 out of 5 starsNot the best representation of the Great War genre
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2011
Disappointing -- as the English offering to the post-Great War genre, this slow-moving and difficult to follow novel pales in comparison with 'All Quiet on the Western Front' (German), 'Johnny Got His Gun', 'Farewell to Arms' & 'Three Soldiers' (USA) and 'Au Feu' (French). It also suffers from an over-devotion to local dialect and Great War slang. If you are interested in an account from the 'Lost Generation' from an English viewpoint, try "Goodbye to All That' by Robert Graves.
Perhaps not great as literature, nevertheless this is probably the most interesting work of English fiction produced by the Great War. It reflects much better than more poetic works what the experience was really like and the attitudes of those taking part, especially the ordinary soldiers. Some of the conversations on why they believed they were there are truly memorable. A must read for anyone wanting to get beneath the skin and behind the cliched images of the conflict.
Cut through the occasionally, self-consciously intellectual style and this is a fine piece of work. Research the author's biography to get the best from this book, which presents true events in the guise of a novel.