The 1929 Club – Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

1929 club

Goodbye to All That cover

I was very happy to see that Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves was published in 1929 so I could read it for The 1929 Club which is co-hosted by Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon at Stuck in a Book. I’ve been interested in World War 1 since ‘doing’ it at school and luckily Jack has the same interest so we’ve visited some of the locations mentioned in the book, including trenches.

But at the beginning of the book Graves writes about his family history, his childhood and schooldays which were quite miserable, he wasn’t really very likeable to most of his peers it would seem. However, one of his teachers was George Mallory of Everest fame and he did go climbing with him which is definitely a claim to fame, but over the years Graves met up with lots of people who were going to achieve fame of some sort, even in the trenches.

For me it was the wartime parts of the book which were most interesting. Almost as soon as he finished his schooldays at Charterhouse he had decided to enlist, like the rest of them he was scared of missing what was going to be a very short war. Strings were pulled and he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Wrexham, and yes that is the correct spelling of ‘Welsh’ within that regiment. His parents were thrilled to bits, but he started off guarding German prisoners. He was so proud of his regiment despite being quite uncomplimentary about many of the people he met there. At this stage of the war the ‘highheidyins’ seem to have been very lenient with soliders who refused to conform and just had them categorised as ‘unlikely to be of service in His Majesty’s Forces’ and sent them home!

There’s humour but also a lot of the horrors of war and the stupidity of their orders. Given what he was doing eventually it seems amazing that he survived the war at all. I believe that Graves said that some of this memoir is fictional, as you would expect really, but amazingly he did meet up with and make friends of a sort with Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. But eventually fell out with Sassoon, a recurring theme with Robert Graves.

By 1926 and now married he had had enough of Britain and left for Egypt where he settled for a short time, working at a university as a teacher, but his pupils were less than sparkling, his marriage began to fall apart and he moved on again.

This was a good read, really harrowing at times as you would expect but Robert Graves comes across as being a difficult person – as many writers are.

My copy of the book is a Folio edition with endpapers showing a map and inset of Northern France during World War 1.

13 thoughts on “The 1929 Club – Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

    • tracybham,
      I think you would find it interesting. We’ve had our copy of the book for years, unread by me anyway, so the 1929 Club was a good opportunity to get around to it.

  1. Very interesting choice, and it’s a book I’ve not read. I think you’re right about Graves being a difficult man, and I was also reminded that the First World War was still not that long ago in 1929 and people were still processing the effects of that conflict.

  2. I read this so long ago I had forgotten that it described his war experiences. When I was a teenager I sometimes babysat a very precocious 8 year old. His class had the assignment to write to an author. Everyone in the class wrote to the author of Encyclopedia Brown, which the teacher had just finished reading, except Patrick who had just finished Goodbye to All That. He wrote to Graves, off in some island in Greece, if I recall correctly, and he was the only one who got a reply, many weeks later! Much later when I worked in publishing and saw all the letters that came re Encyclopedia Brown I thought of this often.

    • Constance,
      I can imagine that he was very surprised to get a letter from such a young reader! Yes he did move to Greece from Spain, I suspect that the part of Spain he moved to became too touristy for his taste, I think it was Mallorca. How lovely of him to reply but he did say that he and his first wife shared a love of children, I think he had eight of them from two marriages.

  3. A fascinating review of this book, Katrina, reminding me of how much I liked it so many years ago. I read it in college for a World War I Literature class. I found it fascinating and fell hard for Wilfred Owen’s poetry.

    • Judith,
      We all ‘did’ Wilfred Owen when we were at school, and the other WW1 poets, it’s so sad that Owen was killed right at the end of the war.

      • Oh, yes, how terrible! I really felt a kinship with him when I engulfed his poetry and swallowed it whole. Thank goodness at least his poetry can live on… and his anti-war sentiments.

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