Siegfried Sassoon: A Life

Max Egremont, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $27 (639p) ISBN 978-0-374-26375-1

Like his critics, Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967) suspected that it was WWI that gave his writing relevance and saved him from obscurity as a poet. Therefore, until his death, the British Sassoon oscillated between loathing and searching for the camaraderie and inspiration that he'd found in the trenches. In his attempts at escaping the war, Sassoon, a homosexual, went as far as marriage, fatherhood and the establishment of a traditional country estate. Meanwhile, he connected to the war by writing autobiographical novels: "George Sherston, [the narrator of Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man ] is Siegfried Sassoon with almost all the unusual, some might say the most interesting, bits left out. We get the diffidence, the self-deprecating humor, the love of country life, the sporting courage and the sensibility, without the sexual torment, the Jewishness, the poetry or Robert Graves." In addition to relying on solid critical interpretations of Sassoon's writings, Egremont draws on unprecedented access to notes, drafts and correspondence, as well as the diaries of Sassoon's lover, Stephen Tennant. Their affair is one of the highlights of the book, where Sassoon appears most sympathetic, charming and talented. Egremont remains skeptical of his subject's greatness but his substantial (if not always artful) journey through this material illuminates the reasons why such a figure is worth honoring. (Dec)

Reviewed on: 10/24/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 24 pages - 978-1-60583-006-3
Hardcover - 639 pages - 978-0-330-37526-9
Paperback - 639 pages - 978-0-330-37527-6
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