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This book was written in 1929 as a memoir of his service in World War One. The book covers his early life, his time at Charterhouse School where he was mercilessly bullied, the war and the post war period up to writing the book in 1929.
Like many young men Graves enlisted within days of the outbreak of the Great War with no understanding of what war was like. He enlisted as an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He fought in France—the Somme, Souchez, Bethune, Loos, Cambria and Cuinchy—and was seriously wounded and discharged in 1918. In January 1926 Graves, Nancy and their four children set out for Egypt where Graves was to take up an appointment as professor of English in Cairo. In 1929 he divorced his wife and set up house in Deya, Majorca with the American Poet Laura Riding. Graves book “Goodbye To All That” was published the same year as Erick Maira Remarque’s “All Quiet On the Western Front.” Graves was a well known poet and he also wrote poems about WWI as did his friend and fellow soldier Siegfried Sassoon. Graves is best known for his book “I Claudius.”
What makes this such a good memoir about the war is that it is not bogged down with ideologies or politics. He presents what it was like to live day to day in the trenches (as an officer). His vivid account of life and death in the trenches is haunting. While there is obviously much fear, discomfort and horror, there is also lots of comedy and camaraderie. Graves wants to show what WWI was really like, no sentimentalizing it or giving it a meaning he didn’t feel. It was a horrific, life changing experience and that was all.
I had just finished reading “The Storm of Steel” by Ernst Junger. Junger’s memoir is similar to that of Graves in that they both are about reportage. Graves included information about his fellow soldiers, Junger did not, both books tell about the daily life of a soldier. I find it interesting to read about the same battle they both fought in but on opposite side such as the Somme and Cambria. Between the two books I have seen World War One from both viewpoints of the average German and English soldier. Both books reveal a unique, honest and incredibly powerful depiction of the realities of life as a soldier, and of the true effects of fighting on those who experienced it. Martin Jarvis did a good job narrating the book. I recommend this book as a must read for the WWI 100th anniversary.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
I loved Robert Graves??? I Claudius and Hercules My Shipmate when I was young, and so had been wanting to read his autobiography, Good-bye to All That. Graves covers his painful school boy education (stale tradition, sadistic bullying, and usually platonic homosexuality), his transformative service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers during World War I (training, waiting, the Battle of Loos, and the Somme Offensive), and then his immediate post-war life (a teaching job in Egypt and the making and losing of a family).
Throughout, Graves??? writing is accurate, witty, and spare. His description of trench warfare, complete with constant shelling, hidden snipers, poison gas, shoddy equipment, foolish commanders, suicidal charges, meaningless battles, prolific rats, and seemingly random deaths and reprieves, is horrifying. He exposes the full range of human behavior in wartime: bravery, cowardice, infidelity, loyalty, increasing brotherly bonding and enemy loathing, and ignorant patriotism fed by mass media propaganda. I keenly listened to details like Graves and his friends feeling good (rather than envious) when one of their number got wounded enough to be taken safely out of the action, Graves choosing which new recruits would make good officers by watching them play rugby, his being so awfully young when his war service began (by 21 he had seen heavy fighting and had been promoted to Captain), and his suffering from PTSD for years after his war service ended.
I was also interested in the cultural context of his memoir, of the growth of pacifism and feminism and modern poetry. And I enjoyed his sketches of various important literary figures like Siegfried Sassoon, T. E. Lawrence, and John Masefield.
Martin Jarvis??? reading is impeccable and engaging, and pleasant period music ends one chapter to begin the next.
But???I didn???t notice when I bought this book that it was abridged! Grrr! It does feel incomplete and I feel foolish.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
Where does Goodbye to All That rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
This, to my surprise, is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard. Rather ashamed of never reading it before because of my horror of violence, I found the book heartbreaking certainly, but told with calm and even humour at times. This meant that the appalling conditions could be taken in because of the lightness of touch of the writing.Details were fascinating. I hadn't realised, for example, that Robert Graves had become friends with Siegfried Sassoon and others during the war.It is interesting that Graves' story begins with his hard experiences of public school life - and this too perhaps explains why so many heroic young men from such schools who flocked to be officers were able to accept the nasty brutish experience of France. But he makes sure too that we see the bravery and resilience of the men - and how their war was often made so much worse by the insensitivity and even idiocy of the heirarchy whose uniforms never saw blood and mud. The section on the language and attitudes he becomes aware of from the jingoists back in England makes one want to weep.Robert Graves was one of the very few young officers who survived the war - and even afterwards his post war experience makes it clear that the mental suffering of those years was very great even for men like him who were able to keep their sense of humour and perspective. He never once betrays any self pity - and his evident fury at the waste of life caused by the unnecessary prolonging of the war after 1915 is only quietly expressed - and is all the more powerful for that.
What other book might you compare Goodbye to All That to, and why?
It has something of the flavour of "Birdsong" - but what makes it so remarkable is that, unlike Sebastian Faulkes' excellent novel, "Goodbye to all That" is a first hand series of true memories, written with honesty and humour, compassion for others and no plea for pity for himself. The scenes of actual battle are matter of fact - and all the more powerful for that.
Have you listened to any of Martin Jarvis’s other performances? How does this one compare?
Martin Jarvis is very easy to listen to and he is one of my favourite narrators.His range - from William stories to the horrors of war - is impressive.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No. Sometimes one wanted to stop to let parts of the account sink in. I listened mainly while walking in the country. I think I heard it all in about five sessions.
Any additional comments?
The UK Minister of Education has suggested in this centenary year that accounts of WW1 that emphasise to the public the horrors are only because "left wing academics" choose to "feed myths" about World War One. One wonders if he has ever actually read first hand accounts such as this. Robert Graves, Siegfried Sasson, Wilfred Owen and others, whose medals proved their outstanding bravery, were all too aware of the hell on earth of the trenches - because they were there in the bloody thick of it. Now more than ever we must take on board the message of their writing and not allow politicians to enlist our "patriotism" for their own ends, mere trade advantage or empire building.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
If you are intending to listen to this audio book alongside reading the physical book I do not recommend this version to you. There were multiple times where I lost track of the story as huge chunks of the text were not mentioned. The main plot of the narrative is there however lots of little details are cut out which I believe take away from the overall experience of listening to the story.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful