Women, Men and the Great War

Trudi Tate, Editor Manchester University Press $35 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7190-4598-1
Written by authors as famous as Woolf, Faulkner, Conrad and Wharton, and by equally talented lesser-knowns, these fascinating short stories immerse the reader in the milieu of WW I. Combatants, civilians, women, men, pacifists and propagandists not only describe the bloodshed, strategizing and paranoia of battle but also illuminate the Great War's subtle and profound effects on culture. Several characters lapse into insanity when war makes reality insupportable. Richard Aldington's Lt. Hall desperately tries to fend off the maddening guilt that haunts him. A seemingly sane man in Wyndham Lewis's tale comes unhinged over a poodle. Others simply detach from the world: Mary Butts's injured soldier holds onto reality through clinging to dreams of gossamer fabric, ""crepe de Chine, organdie, aerophane, georgette."" For others, the war is a curious liberation, a moment of cathartic potential when misery overturns normalcy. In Sylvia Townsend Warner's brilliant story, a brother and sister (both emotional casualties) find unconventional refuge in each other. Wharton's hilarious tour de force depicts a poor American professor chancing into an unlikely romantic fantasy when a rich English woman mistakes him for a refugee and takes him to her manor. In Radclyffe Hall's story, a lesbian who has never fit in discovers a use for her great physical strength and bravery as a nurse on the front lines. Tate's clear and accessible introduction yields good scholarly insights without academic puffery. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/1996
Release date: 02/01/1996
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Hardcover - 298 pages - 978-0-7190-4597-4
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