In which I try to return.

I’ll admit I forgot about this blog and this project. The last post was in January 2015, where I had already failed to make progress. Something tells me that I won’t hit the 100 mark that I had intended, but as this isn’t called 100 Great War Reads, I won’t hold myself in account too much.

Since January 2015, I have read the following First World War books:

Across the Blood Red Skies by Robert Radcliffe – 3/5 stars
Dead Man’s Land by Robert Ryan – 4/5 stars
Sherston’s Progress by Siegfried Sassoon – 3/5 stars
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon – 3/5 stars
War Story by Derek Robinson – 3/5 stars

Now I add it up, this is rather shameful! I read half of a lot of books, or certain essays from collections during my dissertation research, which I didn’t count as completing a whole book.

I am going to amend some of the other pages across the blog to try and reflect the new direction I want to take the blog in.

Hopefully this return is more successful than the last!


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Biggles Learns to Fly by W.E Johns

I bought this book on a whim some time ago, and am glad that I did. I was so confident that I would enjoy the books that I bought another before I had even read the first. I really knew nothing about Biggles before I read the book, only that he was a pilot and that he was pretty much a by word for anyone wearing a flying helmet.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started reading – perhaps something far lighter and jolly than I got. Of course, there were funny moments but there were far more moments of darkness than I was expecting.

The story was told in a very episodic way, every chapter seemed to involve a new mission or patrol that always, always, always ended in a dogfight, crash or other general disaster. I did read somewhere that this book was made up of several short stories organised into a longer narrative, but I’m not sure how true that is. The fact that Biggles and Mark (more on him later) got stuck behind enemy lines twice in the space of about four chapters might be because of this reason, or because Johns liked getting Biggles into scrapes.

As for the characters, I thought Biggles was a great character and I had a lot of my misconceptions about what he would be like shattered. In this book at least, he is not a stiff upper lip, derring do pilot, risking life and limb. He is a young man, barely out of school who just happens to be good at flying. He finds the life of being a pilot fun until he sees one of his comrades killed for the first time. This plot device is used so much now, but it is still very truthful, many people think they are indestructible until they see death in front of them.

I also really loved Biggles’ observer, the New Zealander Mark Way. I thought they bounced off each other really well and was slightly gutted when Johns split them off to send Biggles off to a fighter squadron and then even more gutted when, without trying to spoil anything, Johns gave Mark a slightly graver fate.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and can’t wait to get onto the next one!


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Reading, Biggles and a return

Sorry it’s been so long!

I have now got passed the first section of my MA and am now onto dissertation preparation. I’m hoping to write my dissertation on the First World War, possibly on representations of trauma in the literature of the war, so I thought it was high time to resurrect the blog.

Since my last post (in August 2014, sorry, sorry, sorry), I haven’t read many First World War books, but haven’t read many books outside university reading at all. I have read my first ever Biggles books – Biggles Learns to Fly and loved it, so expect to hear about that soon. I also read Six Weeks by John Lewis-Stempel, which I thought was really interesting and only wish I had been sensible enough to take notes or to tag pages I wanted to return to when reading.

Needless to say I did not read 25 books about the First World War last year, so I have a lot of catching up to do if I want to hit the 100 by 2018!

Biggles review coming soon (I promise!)

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The Lie

So one of the books I have conquered recently was The Lie by Helen Dunmore.

The blurb reads:

Cornwall, 1920, early spring.
A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.
Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life.
Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him.
He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?

Now, to me this sounded quite interesting but from the off I had already determined what “the most intense relationship of his life” was (hint: he was really good friends with a posh local boy, they went to war together…). The actual lie on the other hand was quite a good twist, and I have to say that I didn’t see the ending coming at all.

The language used in the book was probably my favourite thing about it, I thought it portrayed the area and people really well. I felt like Dunmore had really done her research into the area (unless she comes from that area, i’m not sure.) The sense of place was so well done that I felt the plot let down the writing a little.

As for the war – Daniel’s experience of the war is told through flashbacks throughout the novel, showing how he has got to the point he’s at. I have to admit I didn’t find this book terribly compelling but it was worth the read for the use of language and place, rather than as a war story.

Rating: 2/5



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Again, sorry for the silence around these parts. 

Coming soon: 

  • Reviews of Strange Meeting, Journey’s End (the novel) and The Lie.
  • Possible thoughts on Aces High (the film)
  • To read list and more updates!

Thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully I’ll be back soon!

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An apology of sorts

I’m just popping in to apologise for the lack of posts around here recently.

The thing is that I am currently doing an MA and it seems to be eating up all my time for leisure reading, which includes books for this blog. I have been incredibly slow with reading and this has caused the blog to shudder to a halt somewhat.

Once again, sorry for the silence and hopefully normal service will resume soon.

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Currently Reading and Coming Soon


As my reading has been a bit slow there hasn’t been much room for updates here, but I’ve just sorted through what I want to read this month and what I’ve given up on for now, so here is a new list!


These are the books I hope to read this month! I have already started Six Weeks and Famous 1914 – 1918 but now I have everything to start the Journey’s End read I can start that. I found a less fragile copy of the novelisation of the play (my copy is falling apart and  I am too scared to read it!) on eBay, and my copy of The Journey’s End Battalion arrived from Pen and Sword so I can get started on that.

I have (for the moment) given up on Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington as it was really slow, and while there were some funny and some brilliant moments, I felt so bogged down by the potted history of the main characters parents lives that I had started not to care. I will try and get back to it at some point, but for now there are many other things vying for my attention.

I recently was given a copy of Joe Sacco’s The Great War, which is an illustrated panorama of the first day of the Somme. While I don’t think it will count for a book in this reading challenge I’d quite like to do a post on it as it is quite an interesting thing.

That’s all for now,



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