Category Archives: novels

The Return of the Brute

Liam O’Flaherty’s Return of the Brute (1929) tells the story of what happens to a group of ineffective soldiers who are sent forward into no-man’s-land in 1917, as part of a large offensive. They get lost, they are victims of the mud, and of random enemy fire, and above all they endlessly chafe against one […]

Company K by William March

Company K (1934) is a strange novel. At the recent Aberdeen conference, Steven Trout made strong claims for it, and with reason. It is wide-ranging, hard-hitting and original. Its form is a succession of brief (sometimes under a page) fragments, each relating a war experience of a different member of an American company of Marines. […]

‘The Fictional First World War’ at Aberdeen

I’m now back from the Fictional First World War conference at Aberdeen, with my head full of ideas, and with a lengthy list of additions to my reading list. The conference was of a very high standard; here are some of the highlights.

The Querrils, by Stacy Aumonier

With my paper for the Aberdeen conference in mind, I’ve been re-reading The Querrils (1919) by Stacy Aumonier. My paper will be on fictional representations of military executions over the hundred years since 1914, and Aumonier’s novel contains one of the earliest (and oddest). (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

Aberdeen conference ‘The Fictional First World War’

Booking is now open for the conference in Aberdeen, on ‘The Fictional First World War’, (6-9 April, 2017). Here’s a link to it. I’ve been sent a provisional programme, and it is packed with good speakers and interesting topics. My own paper will have the title: ‘They ought to ’ave shot that bugger’: A Century […]

Trooper to the Southern Cross

The War had many a bright moment even for the diggers so far away from good old Aussie. For instance there was the day the diggers got wild with the English A.P.M. And somehow lost him in the canal. I did my best with artificial respiration, but the bugger had me beat. We had one […]

Sassoon’s copy of ‘Goodbye to All That’

There is an excellent article by jean Moorcroft Wilson in this week’s TLS . She has been looking at Siegfried Sassoon’s own copy of ‘Goodbye to All That’, which he annotated indignantly, marking factual errors and marking various passages as ‘rot’, ‘fiction’, ‘faked’ or ‘skite’. As Moorcroft Wilson explains: He was particularly critical of Graves’s […]

P.G. Wodehouse and the First World War

A while ago I wrote a chapter on Wodehouse and the War for a collection, Middlebrow Wodehouse, that tried to locate PGW in the context of his times, and of popular literature. The book appeared, and seems to have sunk without much trace. It was published at the sort of silly academic price that means […]

Tunnel Trench’ – and Arnold Bennett

Tunnel Trench is a play by Hubert Griffith, first staged in 1924 by the Repertory Players at the Princes Theatre. It was one of those club performances where the play was presented for just one night in the hope that a commercial management might take it up for a longer run. No managements seem to […]

Who is the politician?

I’m currently reading (and admiring) C.R. Benstead’s 1930 novel, Retreat, whose central figure is a chaplain attached to an artillery unit in the Fifth Army during the momentous  German assault of March-April 1918. The novel graphically describes the efforts of the over-extended unit to hold their position as the Germans relentlessly advanced. But a detail […]