Category Archives: History

Singing secretly

I’ll be giving a talk in a couple of weeks about myths of the War – the strange rumours that people whispered to each other at the time, and the equally strange things that some people believe about the War today. That’s why I’ve been looking again at a book I’m very fond of, Echoes […]

Arnold Bennett and a knighthood

There was an enjoyable programme about Arnold Bennett on Radio 4 yesterday (still available on iPlayer). Deborah Moggach and Giles Brandreth gave a lively account of his life and talked enthusiastically about his novels, agreeing that The Old Wives’ Tale was the best (which is fair enough, though I have an especial fondness for Riceyman […]

Mauvais Genre

At the Amiens conference earlier this month, one of the papers mentioned a French popular novel of the war years: La Fauvette des Tranchées, the story of a brave young woman who disguised herself as a man in order to fight. This year, a best-selling graphic novel has appeared in France – Mauvais Genre, that […]

Crimson Field: self-inflicted wounds

I quite enjoyed the first episode of The Crimson Field,   but by the third helping it was getting a bit ridiculous. So many issues – cowardice, Ireland, homosexuals, class conflicts… And most of the characters more interested in the issues (and their personal lives) than in healing the casualties… But the big topic yesterday evening […]

The prevention of war books?

In her 1937 autobiography, Three Ways Home, Sheila Kaye-Smith considers the commercial failure of her wartime novel Little England: The explanation [...] does not lie entirely in the book itself, but also in the time of its appearance. that must share the responsibility for the small impression that it made. It was a war book, […]

Les Amis du Roman Populaire

In Amiens last week I attended a meeting of L’ Association des Amis du Roman Populaire. This is a group of academics and others interested mostly in French popular fiction of the last century, and the two-day conference was about the popular literature of the Great War. We met in the Logis du Roy in […]

Prison Libraries

I by and large keep contemporary politics out of this blog, but I’m utterly fuming at the Justice Secretary’s decision to prevent prisoners being sent books as presents. They must buy them from their meagre wages, he says, or rely on the prison library. I’m sure that prison libraries have improved since 1917, but I […]

Christopher Clark’s ‘The Sleepwalkers’

No wonder Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers has been a best-seller. It re-tells the origins of the Great War as a story for our time. Back in the Cold War sixties A.J.P. Taylor’s book on the War struck a chord with readers. He presented a picture of an arms race slipping out of control, leading to […]

Henry Williamson and Charles Carrington interviewed

Last week’s TV programme I Was There , featuring snippets from interviews made fifty years ago for the BBC Great War series, was gripping viewing (despite the bombastic music and the editorialising inter-titles). Even better is the internet resource which presents fourteen of the interviews in their entirety. In the past I have written here […]

Soldiers reading

In Fiction and the Reading Public (1932) Q.D.Leavis is very keen to prove that the contemporary novel is used mainly as a drug, as a substitute for living. Part of her evidence is that: men, coming from the trenches who had been deprived of reading matter for some short while would, however weary, seize on […]

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