Sunday, 17 August 2014

Book Review: "Goodbye To All That" by Robert Graves.....Not Just For Boys...

Goodbye To All That (1929)
AuthorRobert Graves
BLM Rating 9 / 10
Acquired at: Hill Of Content, Melbourne CBD

I picked up this book back in April. It's one of a series of Penguin Australia reprints on a theme of war, that have been printed in khaki colours to mark the centenary of the start of World War I. Granted it doesn't sound too exciting.... mmmm khaki.... but I'm not responsible for their marketing ideas! 

The book itself however is well worth reading, in any format or colour. Robert Graves was, for those who don't know of him, a poet, novelist, critic and classicist who published over 140 works in his lifetime. Graves was born in the late Victorian era and this autobiographical work does an excellent job of showing the transition the upper-middle classes of Britain went through in the early part of the 20th century. 

There are many cliche's apparent here, living as we do in a time when mass-media has given us all a fixed perspective of the 'toffs' going off to war 'Downton Abbey' and 'Upstairs Downstairs' style, but one has to remember that this is not a work of fiction, but one man's recollections who lived in extraordinarily harrowing times. 

I really want to impress upon you that this is not a 'book for the boys', as many readers might imagine. It's all too easy to dismiss war stories as something to stimulate the testosterone fuelled reader. The book is beautifully written, sensitive and emotional, a testament to Graves' talent as a poet as much to his skill as a raconteur. When it was published, the uncompromising efforts by the author to represent a true account from his perspective led, sadly, to his estrangement from many of those he mentions in the memoir. Indeed the title stems from the fact that in 1929, he also split from his wife and family, consequently choosing to leave his old life behind him and move abroad.

This is a wonderful piece of history that documents a complex time period from one man's perspective. I'd definitely recommend it. Khaki or otherwise...