Review: Good-bye to All That (Graves)


Good-bye to All That (Revised Second Edition).

This is an autobiography (as noted on the cover), but for the purposes of this blog it qualifies as a war memoir because half of it is occupied with the author’s experiences in the Great War.

Graves is a good writer (I’ve read his two Claudius novels), so it’s his voice that distinguishes this version of the trench war story. This revision dates to about 40 years after the Great War, so he restored the names of many of the other people who were involved in his life and times, but the pseudonyms that remain are creative and don’t clash with the content. It’s interesting to get his factual take on Siegfried Sassoon, who fictionalized his own memoir. Graves admits that he was “shell shocked,” while Sassoon denies having the disorder (although the evidence of Sassoon’s mental illness is there).

The account of Graves’s early life is entertainingly written and provides a vivid picture of the late Victorian and the Edwardian periods, but the postwar chapters feel anticlimactic. The war account begins with Chapter X and continues through part of Chapter XXV, in case you want to cut to the chase. Recommended.

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