Note my comment — Wilfred Owens and Mrs. Pankhurst in one sentence!

Great War Fiction

You look for one thing, and you find another.
I wanted to look at a 1932 Douglas Goldring pamphlet about pacifism. This turned out to be fiery, but a bit predictable.
It was bound, though with other pamphlets in the ‘Here and Now’ series published by Wishart, and the one following it was a joy.
A War Museum 1914-1918 is a collection (gathered by Hamish Miles) of press-cuttings from the War years. Mostly they show patriots making idiots of themselves, like the 1914 letter-writer to the Daily Mail who was trying to decide which kind of feather was ‘suitable for presentation by a corps of young ladies to the youths who are preferring their own amusement to the defence of their country’. To give a goose-feather would wrong a noble bird who would fight in defence of its home. He suggests that a tuft of fur from the skunk might…

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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Here’s a different view of the novel “The Light Between Oceans.”

She Reads Novels

The Light Between Oceans is the story of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, a young couple living on the remote island of Janus Rock, off the coast of Australia. Tom, who has recently returned physically unharmed from fighting in the Great War, has taken a job as lighthouse keeper on the island.

One day in 1926, a boat is washed up on the shore of Janus, with a baby girl and a dead man inside. Isabel, who has just suffered the latest in a series of miscarriages and stillbirths, sees this as a second chance and is determined to keep the baby. Tom is not so sure, but he loves his wife and she convinces him that it’s the right thing to do. Raising Lucy as their own child, it’s not long before Tom and Isabel can’t imagine life without her, but their decision to keep her leads to other important…

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Frederic Manning as war poet

Great War Fiction

Frederic Manning is generally acknowledged as the finest novelist of the Western Front, but Her Privates We was not written until ten years after the War. During the War years he saw himself as a poet rather than a prose writer.

I find most of his poems, with their archaisms and delicate Nineties texture, difficult to appreciate, but The Trenches, one of the very few that he wrote about the War, is different, a very evocative piece of descriptive writing. It was published in 1917, I think.

The Trenches

Endless lanes sunken in the clay,
Bays, and traverses, fringed with wasted herbage,
Seed-pods of blue scabious, and some lingering blooms;
And the sky, seen as from a well,
Brilliant with frosty stars.
We stumble, cursing, on the slippery duck-boards.
Goaded like the damned by some invisible wrath,
A will stronger than weariness, stronger than animal fear,
Implacable and monotonous.

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I’m getting caught up on my webreading, after a couple of weeks of frantically editing the ww1ha magazine, Camaraderie. I found a question at Imagineatime’s post that I’d like to answer:
“How were you taught about the events leading WWI? What about the war itself? ”
This is what I was taught. The U.S. Civil War lasted approximately 75 years. Then we kicked the Germans out of France. Then the Japanese attacked us while we were innocently holding a luau; there was terrible fighting in Asia. Also, D-Day. Then we kicked the Germans out of France. The End.


Happy Easter! (yes. this is real, and just as awkward now as it probably was then.)

I don’t doubt also that the Hungarian water throwing ritual might have taken place on unsuspecting victims (due to the lack of pretty girls this ritual is usually reserved for.)

People have a tendency to simplify and overlook the reasons for The Great War. Yet the subject has been studied immensely since that August of 1914. In his book, Europe’s Last Summer, David Fromkin seeks to explain just what happened that fateful summer in the months preceeding the war.


An abrubt conclusion to a long and tumultuous beginning…

Though undoubtedly scholarly and well-written, Fromkin takes a point of view rather new to me as a student of WWI. His primary argument, which is delivered with excellent sources, is that Germany and Chief of Staff, von Moltke, in particular is responsible for truly initiating the war…

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Week 13: “The Light Between Oceans”

I am ambivalent about “The Light Between Oceans,” by M.L. Stedman. I liked most of the story, about a lighthouse keeper off the coast of Australia, and his wife. I liked the lighthouse keeper, Tom Sherbourne, a haunted hero of the Great War. The details of his silent life alone on the island and the precision of his work drew me in.

But I didn’t care for his wife, Isabel, a rich girl from the coastal small town. She wants to pry into memories he has tried to bury. She claims to enjoy their isolation, but I don’t believe her. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic about her multiple miscarriages. But keeping the baby that washes ashore in a dinghy with a dead man at the oars – I’m with Tom: It’s just not right.

You can’t just acquire someone else’s baby. Of course Tom grows to love her – she’s one of those perfectly sweet babies so often found in novels, instead of the screaming brats many of us have to care for. But Tom is always uneasy about the lie he has recorded in his logbook. Lies are what you tell young men about to run into machine gunfire.

“The Light Bewteen Oceans” is a good book for a rainy afternoon – in November, say, when you can hear “The Band Played ‘Waltzing Matilda’” in your mind. The war, like all wars, took good men and turned them into monsters. Tom is one of those who turned himself back into a human. He deserves a happier life than the one he gets.

And there you see Stedman’s success: She made me care about him.

Week 12: “Land of Marvels”

I don’t often review books I don’t like, but you might like this one and not have heard of it before. So here goes.

Barry Unsworth’s novels “Land of Marvels” is about a failing archaeologist desperate to find something of great value in time to stop the German railway headed straight at his site. He has the misfortune to be digging for an Assyrian palace in what Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” calls Mess-Opotamia. Yes, the territory that will become Iraq.

You might ask why the Germans are building a railway across the Ottoman Empire in the spring of 1914. Hmm, what does Iraq have that another country would have wanted … oh, yeah, oil. The plot is cluttered with characters I didn’t like: the archaeologist, his cold wife, his lovely young intern and an American who arrives out of nowhere, pretending to be an archaeologist.

But if you are intrigued by watching a fringe of the Ottoman Empire start to fray, “Land of Marvels” might be just the ticket.