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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  278 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
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' fatal decision to fight in the war. The book also evokes an astonishingly creative moment in English literature, when London was a battleground for ne ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 12th 2012 by Faber and Faber (first published 2011)
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Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Not quite a biography, but a very good analysis of Thomas and his poetry and also his friendship with Robert Frost. Hollis's style does not lead to a light touch, but his analysis of the poetry is excellent. Thomas was a complex character, who came late to poetry, having been a prose writer, reviewer and critic. It was his friendship with Frost that really stimulated his poetic endeavours.
Thomas does not come across as a particularly likeable character, but Hollis analyses and explains his atti
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A poet on a poet.

Remarkably, Edward Thomas would not start writing poetry until the last 3 years of his life. Prior to that, he was a Literary Reviewer and author of a number of prose works, largely non fiction, although he did write one not very successful novel. It was his great friend and fellow poet Robert Frost who encouraged him to write in this form. Frost was convinced from reading Thomas’s prose that this was his natural mode of communication; Thomas took some convincing. But Frost was
Brian Robbins
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-crit, biography
Although the subject of the book is Edward Thomas and particularly focusing on his relationship with his wife and his friendship with Robert Frost, the real hero of this biography is poetry.

It’s possible for authors to approach the subject of their biographies from various points across a spectrum, which ranges from outright admiration and all-round praise of their subject, to disdainful character assassination. There are well written and interesting books that have been produced across the ent
Jim Coughenour
Last October I started reading Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways. I still haven’t finished it – in part because in the first few pages, as Macfarlane is hiking the ancient Icknield Way, he recalls a previous hiker and writer – Edward Thomas – whom he calls “the guiding spirit of this book.” Like most Americans, my primary association with Thomas is Robert Frost. The two men became best friends, irreplaceable friends, walking and talking through the countryside when Frost was living in England jus ...more
Helen (Helena/Nell)
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in poetry, or literature around the WWI
Recommended to Helen (Helena/Nell) by: Tony Walker
There are only two things I don’t like about this book. One is the photograph of the intense looking man on the front and back of the cover. So far as I can see this is not Edward Thomas, because there are two photographs of Thomas in the middle of the volume and he doesn’t look like that. These photos are very poetic looking model who in fact resembles Rupert Brooke. But Rupert Brooke is really ‘out’ these days, while Thomas is increasingly ‘in’.

The other thing I don’t like is that I didn’t wri
Sep 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, biography
I started to read this book because of the evocative title; it sounded like poetry. It was poetry; from the poem “Roads” by Edward Thomas, written in January 1916:

Now all roads lead to France
And heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead
Returning lightly dance:

This books tells of the last years of Edward Thomas, critic and writer, who feared at the age of 36 that he was becoming a hack. When Robert Frost was living in England, Thomas met Frost. They became close friends, and continued to corr
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-bio
Follows Edward Thomas from the opening of the Munro bookshop in England to his WWI death. Also an interesting aspect was the Robert Frost element...Frost was the earliest supporter of Thomas and encouraged him to try his hand at poetry
Chin Joo
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This book does not belong to the genre that I normally read, in fact I didn't even know who Edward Thomas was. I bought this book for two reasons: it was in the discount bin in the bookstore, heavily discounted, secondly the artillery pieces on the cover of book misled me somewhat into thinking that this book would be skewed towards WWI action. It was left on my bookshelf for more than a year since I bought it and I only picked it up to read because this is the centennial year of the start of WW ...more
Judith Johnson
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent work by Matthew Hollis - thank you Matthew!

Rather than simply repeating what many other Goodreads reviewers have put to articulately, I would just note that, personally, reading this biography has encouraged me to try and get back to writing poetry (procrastination having almost killed off my energy to do so), and also that in many ways I feel more sympathy for the children of Thomas and Frost, let alone their hapless worn wives!

I also think of the Welsh poet Herbert Williams' poem
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is my first review for Goodreads and I am still at the early stage of reading this book, but I am totally entranced. I'm not sure why. I am not a keen poetry reader and the man himself, Edward Thomas, is not the most appealing of people. I was drawn to it from reading Robert Mcfarlane's The Old Ways ( which is a must read in itself) since Thomas, the walker and poet, is the major inspiration for the book. The appeal probably lies in the (wrongly) romantic atmospheric appeal of Edwardian Lo
Andrew Darling
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poets
Edward Thomas was a wonderful poet, and this is within a whisker or two of being a wonderful biography. Hollis is a poet himself, and his analysis and description of the creative process is excellent; as is his understanding of Thomas's complex personality. The story of the relationship between Robert Frost and Edward Thomas is well-known, but here it is subjected to intense scrutiny, with fascinating results. My only reservations (extremely pedantic, I know, but I mention them because they inte ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read. Even if you aren't well-versed in poetry or in the world of poetry, this book is interesting in its own merit. It records the transition from Romanticism into Modernism through Edward Thomas' literary career and entrance into poetry. His friendship with Frost as outlined by this book is reason enough to read. It's beautifully outlined by Hollis.
Christine Parker
If you don't like poetry then this is not the book for you. There is a lot of technical stuff perhaps a bit too much for general appeal. And this applies to the poems themselves too.
I must admit for a prize winning book I was disappointed. Thomas comes across as an uncharismatic, humourless character and there is little evidence of the close friendship with Frost ...more like a pen pal.

description from BBC.UK

A compelling exploration of the making of one of Britain's most influential First World War poets - Edward Thomas, who is perhaps best-remembered for his poem 'Adlestrop'.

Matthew Hollis's new biography is an account of Thomas's final five years and of his momentous and mutually-inspiring friendship with the American poet, Robert Frost.

Although an accomplished prose-writer and literary critic, Edward Thom
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Perry O'Donovan
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THIS is a totally wonderful book, fully deserving of the praise it has received. It’s simply excellent throughout from every aspect — the story is amazing (both the central characters and that just-before-the-First-War world), and it so works to frame just the last four years of Thomas’ life (1913 onwards). And it is brilliantly written.
If I had to single out some highlights — and as I say it is all good all throughout — ‘Winter’ 1914 is a stand-out section (pp. 183-211), I think, the time whe
Roderick Hart
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a partial biography of Edward Thomas, concentrating on the years just before and during the First World War. In part due to the encouragement of Robert Frost, Thomas turned to poetry somewhat late in the day. Prior to that he had known several poets, reviewed poetry books and written many prose works (only one of them fiction). He was an excellent and thoughtful critic, but most of the prose works were written to keep the wolf from the door – behind which were Thomas himself, his wife He ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Regarded as one of the finest of the war poets ("The father of us all" - Ted Hughes), Edward Thomas only began his poetry career in the year before his untimely but fatalistically anticipated death at Arras on Easter Sunday 1917. The biography charts the last five years of his life from early meetings at The Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury to life in rural Hampshire and Gloucestershire, where the writing community of The Georgians scratched a living through reviewing each other's work. Encounters ...more
Luís Castilho
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
"Now All Roads Lead to France" is a biographic account of the last years of Edward Thomas, the dearly loved English poet, and his great unbinding friendship with Robert Frost. Working as a literary critic and a underpaid biographer, Edward Thomas's life is mostly embedded in depression and poverty until he meets Robert and is encouraged to write his own poetry. The book looks to capture the late rise of this well known poet by setting his life story on its historic background, namely the first w ...more
This is a sensational work and more than deserving of the praise that it has received. The book is remarkable on a number of levels including, but not limited to, the following: its depiction of the friendship between Thomas and Robert Frost; its analysis of the Georgian/ Imagist poetry 'scenes' in London prior to the start of the was; its absorbing portrait of what it was to be a hack writer who was also (a) a genuinely insightful reader of poetry and (b) a man who himself became a poet of the ...more
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, as befits a book by a poet, about a writer who came late to the form though the poetry of his prose.

I knew of Edward Thomas simply because he trained for service in the First World War at Hare Hall camp, close to where I now live. Other than that he had not survived the conflict, I knew little more.

Having read "Now All Roads Lead to France" I now know much more about Edward Thomas, and about his times and about the other poets that he knew (especially his friendship with R
Aug 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting evocation of the development of a poet and in particular of the creativity inspired mutually through the relationship with Frost. I had always liked ET's poetry but the sad thing for me is that I went back to some of the poems and decided they were over-rated. The writing is not as polished as it should have been. Some silly metaphors: at one point the idea of going to the US is "kicked into touch". What on earth is a Rugby metaphor doing in a book about a man who would ba ...more
Nicola Pierce
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of Edward Thomas, nor his poetry, but I love reading books about writers/artists and their progress to (relative) success. I didn't like Thomas, thanks to his selfish attitude to his wife and children. He was lucky with the women in his life,free to live as a single man. Sometimes, I found myself wondering how on earth Helen, his wife, was feeding the children. She was a far more interesting 'character' to me.

However, I did enjoy reading about his struggles as a writer trying t
T P Kennedy
This is a very good, well observed biography focusing on the poetry of Edward Thomas. It's unfortunate that he was such an unlikeable, narcissistic and unpleasant person. It's doubly unfortunate that this discovery will forever color the way I look at his poetry (which I've modestly enjoyed up to now). The account of a character's struggles with depression and de facto abandonment of his family are difficult to focus on knowing there's an impending war in which he's going to be killed. I'm afrai ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With his account of the final years of Edward Thomas's life, Hollis takes readers on a tour of the literary world, and, to a lesser extent, the world at large, at a time that everything must have seemed in turmoil to those who lived through it. Literary revolutions. Social revolutions. Wars fought by machines as much as they were fought by people. With Hollis's book (and bibliography) as a starting point, even someone who knows the era quite well could take a fresh look. Of especial interest is ...more
Suzie Grogan
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about a poet written by one and Matthew Hollis has made a wonderful, somewhat melancholy biography of Edward Thomas' life immensely pleasurable to read.The story of the Dymock poets and the relationship between Thomas and American poet Robert Frost - so vital to the poetic development of them both - is told with a warmth that creates an almost tangible bond between reader and poet.

Loved it. Only complaint (and it isn't about the book itself) is that when you read it on Kindle, as
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matthew Hollis has written a remarkable book chronicling the last years of Edward Thomas, which saw the man changed into a great poet. As it is said many times in the book, poetry came to Thomas during those years, and Hollis has made a striking attempt at examining what has fueled this desire and kept it burning. The book is never over informational and does a good job of joining historical and biographical facts in perfect doses to yield a pleasurable reading experience. Highly recommended to ...more
Paul Blaney
I read this alongside The Old Ways, and the two complemented each other nicely. I have to say this was less compelling though, in part because less well written. It's a portrait of the final years of the English lyric poet Edward Thomas, and especially of how his brief friendship with Robert Frost encouraged him to write poetry. Interesting enough on the development of his poetic style, but it all felt a little unfocused, like reading just the final third of a heftier biography. Perhaps the best ...more
Janelle V.
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All I knew of Edward Thomas before reading this biography was his name in anthologies and a segment on him in the BBC's multipart history, "The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century". His deep friendship with Robert Frost was a revelation to me.

I am now moved to read his collected poems. A quick scan of them reveals a great empathy with Frost but I think I sense a gentler personality behind them. I am eager to see if my initial assessment proves true.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written biography which was wonderfully researched. I felt a much better understanding of the poet and how his poetry was informed by his prose writing, his love of walking in the countryside and his inner drive to attain something which was always eluding him. Matthew Hollis writes without intruding with personal opinion whilst maintaining a sense of his love for the poetry and that is very rare.
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