Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas

Matthew Hollis

Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas was perhaps the most beguiling and influential of First World War poets. Now All Roads Lead to France is an account of his final five years, centred on his extraordinary friendship with Robert Frost and Thomas's fatal decision to fight in the war. The book also evokes an astonishingly creative moment in English literature, when London was a battleground for new, ambitious kinds of writing. A generation that included W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost and Rupert Brooke were 'making it new' - vehemently and pugnaciously. These larger-than-life characters surround a central figure, tormented by his work and his marriage. But as his friendship with Frost blossomed, Thomas wrote poem after poem, and his emotional affliction began to lift. In 1914 the two friends formed the ideas that would produce some of the most remarkable verse of the twentieth century. But the War put an ocean between them: Frost returned to the safety of New England while Thomas stayed to fight for the Old. It is these roads taken - and those not taken - that are at the heart of this remarkable book, which culminates in Thomas's tragic death on Easter Monday 1917. 4.4 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 250
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication August 2011
ISBN 978-0571245987
Publisher Faber & Faber
 

Edward Thomas was perhaps the most beguiling and influential of First World War poets. Now All Roads Lead to France is an account of his final five years, centred on his extraordinary friendship with Robert Frost and Thomas's fatal decision to fight in the war. The book also evokes an astonishingly creative moment in English literature, when London was a battleground for new, ambitious kinds of writing. A generation that included W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost and Rupert Brooke were 'making it new' - vehemently and pugnaciously. These larger-than-life characters surround a central figure, tormented by his work and his marriage. But as his friendship with Frost blossomed, Thomas wrote poem after poem, and his emotional affliction began to lift. In 1914 the two friends formed the ideas that would produce some of the most remarkable verse of the twentieth century. But the War put an ocean between them: Frost returned to the safety of New England while Thomas stayed to fight for the Old. It is these roads taken - and those not taken - that are at the heart of this remarkable book, which culminates in Thomas's tragic death on Easter Monday 1917.

BRANCH-LINES: EDWARD THOMAS AND CONTEMPORARY POETRY, ed. Guy Cuthbertson & Lucy Newlyn

EDWARD THOMAS: THE ANNOTATED COLLECTED POEMS, ed. Edna Longley

Reviews

The Daily Mail

Paul Carter

[A] wonderful book … Matthew Hollis tells this tale with a sigh — but also with dry wit, deep compassion and a poet’s eye for evocative detail.

05/08/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Nigel Jones

This is a brilliant and superbly written study by a writer, himself a poet, who understands his subject with acute but critical sympathy. Lucky in life to have found Robert Frost, almost a century after his death Thomas is fortunate indeed to have attracted a biographer who measures up to his own giant stature.

24/07/2011

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The Guardian

Robert MacFarlane

Excellent … He has chosen not to set himself up in stylistic competition with Thomas; his narrative is calm and discreet, his tone witty and scholarly. His sympathy for Thomas and his admiration for the poetry are clear, but he is unsentimentally candid about his subject's troubles and solipsism.

05/08/2011

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

The finest pages in Hollis’s thoughtful and scrupulous book are those that use Thomas’s surviving manuscripts to show him in the process of composition, turning his prose notes into a first poetic draft and then struggling with it until it sounds natural and spontaneous ... It is a bravura critical performance.

31/07/2011

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The New Statesman

Daniel Swift

As Thomas is a poet loved by poets, Matthew Hollis is his perfect biographer.

15/08/2011

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The Times

Paul Dunn

Compelling … Many of Thomas’s verses were mined from his prose and Hollis, an acclaimed poet himself, is at his best discussing how this worked and the refinements that differentiate poetry and prose. For instance, Thomas is perhaps best remembered for the enigmatic 16 lines of Adlestrop. Hollis locates its genesis as an entry in Thomas’s notebook on a trip to see the Dymock poets and brings an editor’s sensitivity to his analysis of its reworking into verse.

13/08/2011

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The Independent

Sean O'Brien

Extremely readable … He is well served by Hollis's clear-eyed sympathy.

29/07/2011

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The Literary Review

Mark Bostridge

Working to a large extent from primary sources, Hollis has recreated a Thomas who is more complex, less easily knowable, and much less homogenised than the character well-known from the memoirs produced as a form of therapy by Helen Thomas after her husband’s death, and by Eleanor Farjeon, Thomas’s infatuated friend ... But the enormous strength of Hollis’s study is the way in which it portrays the different influences that suddenly converged to produce a great poet. Chief among these, of course, was the war.

01/08/2011

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The Financial Times

Jason Cowley

As you would expect of a professional poet, Hollis is preoccupied with the micro world of the London poetry scene ... [He] says very little about the wider socio-political context in which Thomas operated ... [An] absorbing, rather old-fashioned book

06/08/2011

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