As you probably know 2014 has been the centenary of the start of World War I. As my own small commemoration at the beginning of November, just before Remembrance day, I started reading Some Desperate Glory by Max Egremont.
I originally picked up Some Desperate Glory believing it was a collection of World War I poetry but it is actually more than this. Egremont has broken this collection down into chapters on the years before, during and just after the war. Focusing on in each year what events happened, how the poets took part, and what poems and collections were created. Each chapter is then rounded off with a selection of poems from that year. While I always enjoyed the selection of poems at the end of each chapter. I was a little disappointed to find less poetry than I’d hoped.
The history and lives of the poets was very interesting though. I got to discover more about well known World War I poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke. Then I was also introduced to many poets I had not heard of before such as Edmund Blunden, Julian Grenfell, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorley, Edward Thomas, Robert Nichols and Ivor Gurney. Although in many cases when I read examples of their poems at the end of the chapters I found they were familiar even if the poet’s name hadn’t been. My only issue with all these poets though was keeping up with them all and remembering who was who.
Some Desperate Glory is the first book I have read by Max Egremont. I found the style of the book to be detailed, it flowed well and it is extremely well researched. As I have noted above this book is crammed full of events, history, poets and publications. This would be perfect for those already well acquainted with World War I poetry however for me who knows only a little it sometimes all became a bit overwhelming. The layout of the novel didn’t help me either. Each chapter being on a year meant I couldn’t focus on one poet at a time. Instead I had to try to keep a number of life threads going at once. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not! I think this is one book I really could do with a re-read of once I am better acquainted with poetry from this time period.
Some Desperate Glory is a detailed and extremely well researched look at the events, poets and poems of World War I. I recommend to those who are interested in finding out more about well known war poets and the war itself. Okay read.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Do you have a favourite World War I poem?