Frederic Manning used his experience as a soldier in the British Army during World War I for this novel about life in the trenches, hailed as one of literature's most realistic depictions of war and a cult classic that would be celebrated by the likes of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, T. E. Lawrence, and Ernest Hemingway. Stanley McGeagh performs Bourne, the author surrogate, as a man apart from fellow soldiers, giving his accent a tonier polish than that of his more working-class brethren, yet brings a warm, fraternal jocularity that showcases the camaraderie formed between soldiers during wartime.
First published anonymously in 1929 because its language was considered far too frank for the public circulation, The Middle Parts of Fortune was hailed by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, by Lawrence of Arabia and Ernest Hemingway, as an extraordinary novel. Its author was in fact Frederic Manning, an Australian writer who fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and who told his story of men at war from the perspective of an ordinary soldier.
Never before published in Australia, The Middle Parts of Fortune is now recognized as a 20th-century classic.
This is about Bourne of the British Expeditionary Force in France during WWI and about his and his infantry comrades lives during a matter of months. This tells of the gritty, dirty, exhausting, anxious, scared, and courageous existence of these men. It is told in the third person that is a insightful, sensitive, and bold masterpiece of the genre. The dialogue is of the dialect and the narrator did a great job adapting all the characters in an authentic way. I have read a good many WWI memoirs and novels and would say this one is one of the grittiest, having the visceral feel creative nonfiction.
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What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
War as it really is, both the boredom and the horror of it.
Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Stanley McGeagh?
Somebody who knows French!
Any additional comments?
Why weren't more books like this written? First hand accounts with genuine language and real (often gruesome) details.
In the book, the average soldier is concerned with small, petty things when not fighting, and then can be suddenly - matter-of-factly - ended when in the front line.
The writer - though the book is autobiographical - seems as detached as his main character is. There no sentimentality in the book - which came as quite a shock to me. I kept waiting for it, but it didn't come.