The Middle Parts of Fortune: Somme And Ancre, 1916 by Frederic Manning (1929)

25 March 2012

“These apparently rude and brutal natures comforted, encouraged, and reconciled each other to fate, with a tenderness and tact which was more moving than anything in life.”

Frederic Manning’s novel of the Great War follows Bourne, an educated man who prefers to stay with his small group of uneducated pals in the ranks, and not become an officer. There’s action at the start and end but the majority of the novel captures the mundane daily life of rough, sweary squaddies, thinking only about the next meal, getting tanked every evening, smoking fags, philosophising about their crappy lot and despising the swanky officers who implement pointless rules and cock up the big battles.

Officers like Graves, Owen, Sassoon admire the cameraderie and care of the men from the outside; but Manning brilliantly describes it from the inside and captures the embittered, resigned heroism of the army which went on to win the war. A marvellous book.

‘The Middle Parts of Fortune: Somme And Ancre, 1916’ on Amazon

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