Tally Ho!

Memoirs of an Infantry OfficerMemoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What began as a half-hearted trot through as a 'fox-hunting man' ended in a spirited gallop as I not only completed book two but then went cantering on through the final volume of the trilogy. Sassoon/Sherston's memoirs improve with his own growing introspection. Perhaps that's the point: contrastingly sharply the aimless, idle existence of a well-to-do sportsman (riding to hounds in winter, playing cricket in the summer) with the sudden trauma of becoming a soldier. The war changes everything. And everything is changed by war. Sherston's progress is marked by his growing conviction of the futility of fighting, a conviction that nevertheless resides alongside his determination to be in the thick of the fighting. What wins him the MC might be his death-wish. But Sherston knows that he is trapped in the reality of something so appallingly life-defining that it cannot - on a personal level - be denied. It is futile. But it becomes his essence. He is as trapped in his role as the Generals in theirs. But he at least has the novelist's insights into the ultimately irreconcilable opposites wrenching apart his personality. And he also has the sense to go off and have a jolly good gallop on some fine horses whenever there's the opportunity (which there is when the Battalion is sent to Ireland). It's just a pity (one feels) that the Boche can't be hunted like foxes!

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