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Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man

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So much went wrong in those early months, chiefly through an inexperienced military, and the bungling and the old ways being inadequate are very honestly portrayed here. The little thar made it, told from the point of view of a logistics officer rather than from that of a man in combat, is enough to prod us into sanctifying diplomacy, talks and dialogue above all else. To watch the day breaking from purple to dazzling gold while we trotted up a deep-rutted lane; to inhale the early freshness when we were on the sheep-cropped uplands; to stare back at the low country with its cock-crowing farms and mist-coiled waterways; thus to be riding out with a sense of spacious discovery – was it not something stolen from the lie-a-bed world and the luckless city workers – even though it ended in nothing more than the killing of a leash of fox-cubs?

Paul Fussell explains that Sassoon's life was in some substantial ways different from what is depicted here. It establishes not only what he loses, but similar stories can be told of many of the officers summoned to fight in the war that was supposed to end all wars. This changes with the death of his friend Dick Tiltwood, who is based on Sassoon’s friend David Cuthbert Thomas. All through the book it's also possible to see criticisms of the system that led to war – and the people who did so little to stop it, and were so blissfully unaware that it could happen.

Of course, when war breaks out, George Sherston does his duty, as do most young men of English descent. We have grown to love George and his friends, who are young, fearless, fun and have their whole lives ahead of them. It’s likely not for everyone and I would find it difficult to filter out to whom I could recommend it, but if anyone gives it a go, I’d be interested in any thoughts. He abandoned transport duties and went out on patrols whenever possible, desperate to kill as many Germans as he could, earning him the nickname ‘Mad Jack. A patriotic man, he enlisted on 3rd August, the day before Britain entered the war, as a trooper in the Sussex Yeomanry.

It is in this context that, while on leave in England, Sherston ponders what has become of his life stating simply: “…I began to realize that my past was wearing a bit thin. Thrushes and blackbirds hopped and pecked busily on the dew-soaked lawn, and a pigeon was cooing monotonously from the belt of woodland which sloped from the garden toward the Weald. He also says that Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man is "carefully sanitised" and that all Sassoon "wanted was the past".He wrote about other things he loved: the English countryside, horses in general, music and cricket. Now and and again a leisurely five-nine shell passes overhead in the blue air where the larks are singing.

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