Category Archives: novels

A Sheffield Wednesday

We had a good afternoon yesterday at Sheffield Hallam, talking about fiction of the Great War as part of the Off the Shelf festival. I kicked off by talking about wartime fiction generally, and then explaining why I rated Patrick MacGill’s books, and The Red Horizon especially. (It’s because nobody else, except Frederic Manning, gives […]

A Sassoon afternoon

I spent a pleasant afternoon yesterday at the Annual general meeting of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship. We met in the Lamb pub in Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury. This used to be Charles Dickens’s local, apparently, and it’s where Ted Hughes took Sylvia Plath on their first date. And they serve very good fish and chips. […]

A Depressing Story

In Herbert Jenkins’s jolly book, The Night Club (1917), a group of men agree to gather together regularly to tell each other stories (as so often in fiction of the time – did it ever happen in real life?) The first meeting, however, ended in a fiasco. A fellow named Roger Blint had been called […]

Teaching Sassoon

In the fight for Bazentin Ridge: Was Sassoon/Sherston’s capture of the trench a reckless and lucky achievement (Sherston); a splendid act of bravery (Regimental records); or a ‘futile gesture’ (Graves)? Do you have a fourth opinion? Was Sherston justified in disobeying orders? Once he had captured the trench, should he have consolidated it? Those are […]

‘Pre-war’ again

It’s a long long time since I noted some interesting (to me) uses of the term ‘pre-war’. Here’s another, from the extremely entertaining 1927 novel  Crazy Pavements  by Beverley Nichols. Nobody had spoken during this brief transit, except Maurice who had said: ‘Does my face look terribly pre-war tonight?’ and had been answered by an […]

21 years on

From Lettice Cooper’s novel, National Provincial (1938), set in 1935, when  Mussolini was about to invade Abyssinia: This time the threat of war seemed both more and less surprising. Less because confidence and easy security had been shattered, more because in the last twenty years the mind had come to think of war as a […]

Parson’s Nine, by Noel Streatfeild

This is just a note to recommend Parson’s Nine, by Noel Streatfeild, a 1932 novel about a vicarage family whose lives are changed forever by the War. Noel Streatfield is best known as a writer of children’s books, of course, but she started by writing novels for adults, and this was her second. It has […]

‘Off the Shelf’ at Sheffield

The Sheffield Libraries Off the Shelf festival runs from 26th September to 27th October. (The programme can be found here.) To mark the centenary year, there are several sessions related to the First World War, including one on Wednesday 22nd October, when Professor Chris Hopkins, Dr Erica Brown and myself will be talking about the […]

Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship AGM

This year’s AGM will be on Saturday October 18th, at The Lamb, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London. I shall be giving a talk with the title: ‘ “Too terribly beastly and nasty and corpsey”: How novelists of the nineteen-twenties represented war poets.’ This will be a longer version of the paper I gave at the Oxford […]

Civilians in Uniform

In London last week for Dr Scroggy’s War (of which more later) I popped into a couple of exhibitions. There are some good things at the pleasant little Enduring War exhibition at the British Library, but what struck me most there was a cartoon in The Aussie, a magazine for Australian soldiers. It shows a […]


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