cover image Robert Graves: From Great War Poet to Good-Bye to All That (1895–1929)

Robert Graves: From Great War Poet to Good-Bye to All That (1895–1929)

Jean Moorcroft Wilson. Bloomsbury, $35 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4729-2914-3

In this detailed, sometimes plodding biography of English novelist Robert Graves, Wilson (Siegfried Sassoon) labors to demonstrate the significance of the author’s WWI poetry, drawing on extensive new material. Graves (1895–1985), in fact, suppressed much of this work during his lifetime, although he wrote a successful memoir about his wartime service, Good-Bye to All That. Wilson first chronicles Graves’s early years, from his upbringing in an “unusually talented” family to his boarding school years (including much about wavering sexuality), before finally arriving at 1914, when Graves, at age 19, enlisted in the British army. The core of the book explores Graves’s wartime experiences, including the pivotal episode at the Battle of the Somme where he was given up for dead after being badly wounded. In the concluding section, Wilson emphasizes Graves’s significant if complicated relationships with his wife, Nancy Nicholson, whom he married during the war; and American poet Laura Riding, with whom he lived in Spain for many years after the war. Readers will benefit from some background knowledge about WWI poetry, as Wilson tends to stay on the micro level of Graves’s experience. The volume only covers one-third of Graves’s life, which perhaps does not merit quite such meticulous investigation, but does allow Wilson to carry out a thorough study of a famed author’s wartime record. (Oct.)