12.09.2007

what i'm reading: siegfried sassoon, pat barker, roddy doyle

I finally finished the Siegfried Sassoon trilogy. It took me forever, but then, with three books, and nonfiction, plus reading some other books in between, it's bound to take a while. My reading alternates between fiction and nonfiction, because I love and need both, but I read nonfiction very slowly.

These books were very good, but more for someone already interested in the first World War, British pre-war society, and in war protest in general. The segments on fox-hunting and cricket assumed a fair amount of knowledge, and were full of slang, so were far too technical for me to understand. The parts on trench warfare were the same. I can't say I got a lot of out of those portions, but I continued reading, because the author's descriptions of his mental state and feelings were so compelling.

In general, I'd recommend Pat Barker's wonderful "Regeneration Trilogy" - Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road - as a more accessible and compelling look at this history. But I'm glad I went back to read the material Barker used as a jumping-off point. Especially since the beautiful hard-cover, boxed edition was part of such a (typically) thoughtful birthday gift.

I've just started Roddy Doyle's Paula Spencer, the follow-up to his excellent The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. I'm sure I'll fly through it, and unless it's a great departure for Doyle, I'll love it.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors looks at domestic violence and abusive relationships - and mid-life, and alcholism, and just life - from a woman's (the victim/survivor's) point of view. It's told in the first-person by a female narrator, and written by a man. Having recently seen "Volver," I am reminded that Roddy Doyle and Pedro Almodóvar are two artists who disprove any notions that men can't understand women. Maybe most don't, but then, maybe most people don't understand people.

7 comments:

Wild English Rose said...

If you are interested by first world war poetry - you may be interested in this anthology of women's poetry of the first world war.

http://www.amazon.ca/Scars-Upon-Heart-Catherine-Reilly/dp/1844082253/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197249647&sr=8-2

L-girl said...

Thank you!

Nancy said...

I tried reading U.S.A. by John Dos Passos for the same reason you are reading Sassoon...
I wasn't able to finish it. Some of the characters were not believable to me and there was a noticeable absence of non-White characters.
I think that the best books on the First World War weren't written by the winning side; THE GOOD SOLDIER SCHWEIK and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT sum up the idiocy of the military life for me. Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald probably wrote the books on the middle and upper classes in the USA.
I have read some of Sassoon's writing but not much.
Perhaps diaries and biographies that incorporate the subject's writing would give more of a flavour of that period than fiction.

L-girl said...

I tried reading U.S.A. by John Dos Passos for the same reason you are reading Sassoon...

I love John Dos Passos's work but it has to be read as a period piece. If you read it like you would a 21st Century novel(believable characters, non-white characters), it won't work.

All Quiet On The Western Front had a big effect on me. I think of it as the ultimate anti-war novel. I've mentioned it many times in this blog.

L-girl said...

for the same reason you are reading Sassoon...

What reason would that be, by the way?

Nigel Patel said...

"The Woman Who Walked Into Doors" is a fantastic book and I am waiting impatiently for "Paula Spencer" to finally get into paperback.

L-girl said...

""The Woman Who Walked Into Doors" is a fantastic book and I am waiting impatiently for "Paula Spencer" to finally get into paperback."

Your wait is over - I'm reading it in paperback.

He's such a terrific writer. Also, I've seen him read a couple of times, and he's really low-key and unpretentious. Seems like a very nice man.