First published privately in 1929 as The Middle Parts of Fortune, Her Privates We is the novel of the Battle of the Somme told from the perspective of Bourne, an ordinary private. A raw and shockingly honest portrait of men engaged in war, 'that peculiarly human activity', the original edition was subject to 'prunings and excisions' because the bluntness of language was thought to make the book unfit for public distribution. This edition restores them.
An undisputed classic of war writing and a lasting tribute to all who participated in the war, Her Privates We was originally published as written by 'Private 19022'. Championed by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, TS Eliot and TE Lawrence, it has become recognised as a classic in the seventy years since its first publication. Now republished, with an introduction by William Boyd, it will again amaze a new generation of readers with its depiction of the horror, the ordinariness and the humanity of war.
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About the Author
Frederic Manning was born in Sydney, Australia in 1882. He moved to England in 1903 where he pursued a literary career, reviewing and writing poetry. He enlisted in 1915 in the Shropshire Light Infantry and went to France in 1916 as 'Private 19022.' The Shropshires saw heavy fighting on the Somme and Manning's four months there provided the background to Her Privates We. He died in 1935.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good, a book that leaves an intense memory of atmosphere, place and the grimy, utterly unromantic business of war. Ideally to be read in conjunction with All Quiet on the Western Front: two sides of a conflict suffering precisely the same needless misery.
One might think that a book about WWI would offer little that a reader today could relate to. Not true. I found much in Her Privates We with which to identify. In his modern intro to the book first published in 1929, William Boyd notes that the unexpurgated version, with its vivid and vulgar language typical to the talk of rank and file soldiers, makes the book curiously contemporary, and he's right. The usual Anglo-saxon crudities used by the British soldiers in the book are the same ones still used by soldiers in any army in the world. Hemingway remarked that Her Privates We was one of the best books he'd ever read about men at war, and that he read it often. I have to agree with Boyd and Hemingway. There is something so very real, so 'now' about the story Manning tells, about his main character, Bourne, and the other soldiers he befriends and observes throughout the narrative. There was one particular anecdote, one in which Bourne and another soldier had to escort a couple of large stupid Lancashire men to a military prison which reminded me almost immediately of the plot of a popular novel (and film) of the 70s Vietnam era, Darryl Ponicsan's The Last Detail. I wondered idly as I read this section whether Ponicsan had ever read Manning's book. Another passage which struck me deeply, was a passing comment Bourne made about friendship versus the comradeship the military life often forces upon you. "I have one or two particular chums, of course; and in some ways, you know, good comradeship takes the place of friendship. It is different; it has its own loyalties and affections; and I am not so sure that it does not rise on occasion to an intensity of feeling which friendship never touches."And that is exactly what the phrase "old army buddies" is all about. It can't be explained to someone who has never served, but friendships made outside the military rarely rise to that level, to that lasting feeling of "comradeship." There were many such passages here - truisms and even casual conversations between chums that I understood easily. My own experiences in the US Army in the 60s, then 70s and 80s, were the same. I had my own Bournes, Martlows and Shems, and the end of the story, as heartbreaking as it is, seemed inevitable. That's how real and immediate this book still is. So I understand why Hemingway, Arnold Bennett, T.E. Lawrence and others marked this book for greatness. It is deserving of its status as a classic of war literature. Terrific stuff. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Really a memoir in disguise, it's the clearest fiction of the war, and beautifully written. The orginal, published in the '20s (I think) was bowdlerized; this is a restoration.