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Goodbye to All That

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,863 Ratings  ·  434 Reviews
An autobiographical work that describes firsthand the great tectonic shifts in English society following the First World War, Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That is a matchless evocation of the Great War's haunting legacy, published in Penguin Modern Classics.

In 1929 Robert Graves went to live abroad permanently, vowing 'never to make England my home again'. This is his su
Paperback, Modern Classics, 281 pages
Published September 28th 2000 by Penguin Modern Classics (first published 1929)
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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueRegeneration by Pat BarkerGoodbye to All That by Robert GravesA Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
World War One Literature
3rd out of 159 books — 299 voters
The Trigger by Tim ButcherAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanBirdsong by Sebastian FaulksA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Great War
6th out of 373 books — 483 voters

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Community Reviews

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Robert Graves was one of those well-educated British officers who reacted to the First World War with a kind of wise, Oxford-Book-of-Verse horror and had to expunge the experience as best he could through his writing – like Edmund Blunden, or Siegfried Sassoon. The three of them indeed fought near each other in France and knew each other well. It's a powerful and affecting vision, but it probably needs to be set against the rather different worldview of the private soldiers, as captured in Manni
Aug 03, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-one
Another book in the series I am reading about WW1. It was interesting reading this in conjunction with A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor; I found Graves much less likeable than Fermor. However this is a very powerful description of the war and life in the trenches; it also covers Graves’s life before the war and until 1929.
Graves was half German and half Irish and had a German middle name. This meant he had a very difficult time at public school (Charterhouse) as war with Germany gradually
Mar 28, 2013 ·Karen· rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
In 1929 Robert Graves (aged 33) went abroad, "resolved never to make England my home again;" which explains the title. However this autobiography does little to illuminate that decision: in an epilogue he says that "a conditioning in the Protestant morality of the English governing classes, though qualified by mixed blood, a rebellious nature, and an overriding poetic obsession, is not easily outgrown." Nor is it easily escaped when writing about your own life: one thing that does not feature is ...more
The back cover blurb describes the contents of this volume as “candid”.
That puzzled me until well into the text I realised that this was perhaps Robert Graves’ personal survival stratagem. My grandfather’s was quite the reverse; only once, and when I was ill, did he talk to me of his military service in the Great War.

Are there events where it is literally healthier for our psyche that we remember and learn from simple and candid fact, rather than spend excessive time in introspection attemptin
Aug 04, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a good year to read about World War I and there's no shortage of new material out there for anyone interested in the subject. However, this is a work that has been around for a very long time: since 1929, in fact. Published when Graves was just thirty-four, he wrote in the prologue to the revised edition published in 1957 that the work was his "bitter leave-taking of England" where he had recently "broken a good many conventions". It signalled Graves' departure for Spain, where he lived
Dec 22, 2013 Tyler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: WWI Bibliography
Shelves: gay-interest
Herbert Marcuse describes in One-dimensional Man a world where clashing ideas are held together in a way that makes them impossible to evaluate. We see this with the current PBS ads which, in service to some obscene aesthetic, combine classical opera with film of a napalm attack on Vietnam. A kindred juxtaposition makes the technique of Goodbye to All That recognizably modern. Graves relates his life in a succession of caricatures that shift between the comic and the horrific. Young Graves faces ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Erwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Robert Graves's autobiography which he finished in 1929 at the age of 32 or 33. Fortunately, his life didn't end there but as he said himself, many years later, his life after that wasn't worth writing about (again). In his memoirs, he mostly talks about his experiences during the Great War, as an officer in the British Army ( the Royal Welch; yes Welch with a c). This work is a honest, no nonsense piece of art/literature. It was a pleasant and accessible read. I highly recommend this wo ...more
The human mind invariably seeks patterns. And so, reading WWI histories always has been frustrating because of the war's Brownian motion; the inability to discern any strategy at all. So the great value of Graves's anti-war memoir is that, as a Captain in Welch regiment, he had no clue about, and thus does not write about, the larger strategy of the war. He confines his pen to tactics, and the tactics he observed are damning. Lesson one, btw, is that the surest way to lose public support for war ...more
Paul Bryant
It's 2014 - and the centenary of World War One. I heard a discussion about it the other day and one thing struck me. The idea being suggested was that it would have been BETTER FOR EVERYONE if Germany had WON the First World War. How about that! I never thought of it before, but the logic was compelling. Germany's victory would have stifled Hitler's political career before it got going. There would have been no Versailles treaty, no reparations, no financial catastrophe.....

No Nazis.

No Holocaus
Dec 16, 2013 Bruce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for several reasons. Recently I have been interested in learning more about the transition from Edwardian England to the years following WW I, about the changes in society and in the attitudes of the people of England as they faced the alterations in their domestic and imperial situation and aspirations. I also am interested in knowing more about the English “War Poets,” both those who survived the conflict and those who did not. Finally, I enjoyed reading Graves’ novel I, Claud ...more
Mar 19, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The lines that have stayed with me after finishing this book are those Graves wrote about his time in Oxford after the war, when he was experiencing vivid "daydreams" of trench warfare. It's obvious now that those 'dreams' were flashbacks -- I'm guessing the term hadn't been invented yet -- and Graves says they were always of his first four months in the trenches, that his "feeling-apparatus" (Graves' words) had shut down after that time.

As a schoolboy, Graves suffered under the herd mentality a
Oct 29, 2015 Nigeyb rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww1
It is as a document of World War One that this book really shines. Robert Graves includes a wealth of little details that bring the day-to-day life of him, and his regiment, to life: the gallows humour, the values of the soldiers, the disillusionment with the war and the staff (and yet the loyalty to their officers), the lice, the food, the other privations. It's all there in this excellent memoir. Robert Graves also captures the tragedy and waste of the conflict - friends and fellow soldiers dy ...more
Don Incognito
Nov 25, 2012 Don Incognito rated it liked it
The strength of Robert Graves' autobiography is that it provides sharp and illuminating observations on: the culture of the British school system and students in the early twentieth century; the behavior and attitudes of British regular military officers (as opposed to both enlistees and reservists) near the frontline during World War I; and, especially, trench warfare. The book is an excellent resource for understanding what life in the trenches--during battle attacks and between attacks--was l ...more
Nov 26, 2007 Nat rated it it was amazing
What follows is my favorite passage from Goodbye to All That. It begins with Graves's delivery of absurdity in deadpan style:

"Many of the patients at Osborne were neurasthenic and should have been in a special neurasthenic hospital. A.A. Milne was there, as a subaltern in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and in his least humorous vein. One Vernon Bartlett, of the Hampshire Regiment, decided with me that something new must be started. So we founded the 'Royal Albert Society', its pretended aim b
Sep 08, 2010 Szplug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Graves, an English poet, writer, and proponent of the White Goddess mythology of muses - all done with considerable talent - penned his autobiography in 1927, while still in his early thirties; even at such a relatively young age, he burned with the need to set to paper the traumatic and disillusioning experiences that seared him during his military service in World War One. Graves, a product of the British class system, forthrightly details his formative years amongst the upper echelon a ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing
All the chickenhawks who think war is wonderful and glorious should read this book. Then go enlist.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I probably would have liked this better if I'd been able to read it in print. Alas, most libraries don't have it these days, so I was lucky enough to get the abridged audio edition from my library. It's only four disks, and the fourth disk is far and away the most interesting. The earlier disks are filled with the repetitive miseries of World War I from the soldier's perspective, and also his strange upbringing as an English schoolboy.

The fourth disk provides a lot more variety. He discusses th
Feb 22, 2011 Sibyl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary book. It's as fresh to read as broadsheet journalism. Robert Graves is confiding, honest, provocative - not at all like a stiff upper-lipped English gentleman, (Perhaps this is because he was part-Irish, part German?)
Most of my knowledge of the First World War comes from reading the poetry of Wilfred Owen, a couple of biographies of Owen, and Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' trilogy. Graves's account of life in the trenches adds greatly to that picture. I was able to understa
Jean Poulos
This book was written in 1929 as a memoir of his service in World War One. The book covers his early life, his time at Charterhouse School where he was mercilessly bullied, the war and the post war period up to writing the book in 1929.

Like many young men Graves enlisted within days of the outbreak of the Great War with no understanding of what war was like. He enlisted as an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He fought in France—the Somme, Souchez, Bethune, Loos, Cambria and Cuinchy—and was
Courtney Johnston
Over the past week, I have thought and thought and though and thought about how to review this book. And I've realised that I just can't. I have dogeared 20+ pages, I have re=read chapters, I have drafted opening lines inside my head, but there is nothing I can add to this book.

However. As we start gearing up for a nationwide outpouring of sentimentality to mark the centennial of the beginning of World War One, I think we owe it to ourselves to read books like this - surely one of the most caust
Goodbye to All That is the best of the British First World War memoirs.

Robert Graves went straight from school to the army and then on to the Western Front. He fought there between early 1915 and late 1916, when he was badly wounded and returned to Britain. Goodbye to All That covers Graves' pre war life, his army experiences, and the post war period up to the book's publication in 1929.

Graves writes beautifully. Compared to the shallow and fastidious Blunden, he sweeps you along, providing a p
Mike Schneider
Mar 12, 2008 Mike Schneider rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What strikes me about this book -- after the descriptions of WW I trench warfare, which give me a sensual feel for this war as does nothing else I've read, including All Quiet on the Western Front . . .

What strikes me is Graves' tone toward his material -- it's an epic, amazing tale, I think. Greatly tragic. And yet his British stiff upper lip, in a way, never quivers. He delivers all of it -- the whole story of young men dying horribly, and for nothing much beyond empty nationalist pride &
Jan 29, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Graves, Robert. GOODBYE TO ALL THAT: An Autobiography. (1929; revised 2nd ed. 1957). ****. From the back cover: “Robert Graves left his native England for Majorca shortly after World War I and, except for infrequent visits, has never returned since. But in this autobiography written at the age of thirty-three – youth, the war, and Oxford behind him – Graves says goodbye to more than simply England and his English family and friends. For the war ended a way of life. It ended the 19th century and ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Abby rated it really liked it
Smoothly written and often darkly humorous memoir about the complications of upper crust British boyhood and young adulthood. The memoir focuses on Graves’s time in the trenches during WWI, and it’s a stirring personal report on the devastation and stress of war (with some moments of wit and humor to lift the mood, such as his account of how he was declared officially dead while he was convalescing). Particularly interesting: his long friendship with Siegfried Sassoon, his (swiftly disintegratin ...more
Apr 30, 2012 Jamie rated it it was amazing
I wasn't really sure about this one beforehand - decided to read it purely because it was top of the pile of random books tht seems to have accumulated next to my bed. Turned out to be an inspired piece of untidiness.

I really cannot recommend this highly enough - moving, heartfelt, and you constantly get the impression that Graves is playing his own achievements and contributions down in order to talk up his friends. This modesty does leave you feeling curiously as though you've not been told th
I have read a fair bit about the First World War and most of these books always seem to quote Graves somewhere along the line. To read it first hand was pure pleasure and it truly is one of the best accounts of trench warfare I have ever read.
Jan 10, 2015 Aaron rated it it was amazing
I feel so fortunate to have come across this in a second bookstore, an original 1930 edition (so no epilogue; that came with the 1958 edition). What a gripping account of the the First World War (also of English boarding school culture, where same-sex romance was customary, but those sections recedes as you plough through the carnage and waste of the trenches). Graves adopts a kind of detachment throughout the book, perhaps the only way he can write about the horrific battles in which he partici ...more
Mario Hinksman
Nov 05, 2014 Mario Hinksman rated it it was amazing
A powerful autobiography that is also readily accessible. At its extremities it covers a life that starts with Queen Victoria on the throne at a time when no plane has ever flown and concludes with the author living in a time when Prince Charles is in the news as Queen Victoria's Great Great Great Grandson and the author is living on Majorca where 90 planes a day are landing at that point. Graves actually lived until 1985 reaching 90.

However the focus of the book is Graves' experiences in the Fi
Sep 10, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second on my WWI centenary binge-reading list was this classic account of a British officer's life pre, during, and post-war. This book was really detailed and gripping, and by putting the war in the context of the rest of Graves's life, it provides an interesting account of how English society changed as a result of the war and how officers were born and bred through the 'public' (that's 'private' for Americans) school system.

I was rather surprised, given Robert Graves is known as one of the gr
Jun 30, 2014 Gordon rated it really liked it
Goodbye to All That is one of the most famous battle memoirs of the First World War. The author, Robert Graves, was 19 years old and newly graduated from his British school, and volunteered for officer training within days of the outbreak of war. He did so partly because he had a horror of going off to Oxford University, partly because his friends were doing so, partly because he was outraged by war propaganda about German atrocities in Belgium, and perhaps because he was half-German and needed ...more
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Robert Ranke Graves, born in Wimbledon, received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon & Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. While at Charterhouse in 1912, he fell in love with G. H. Johnstone, a boy of fourteen ("Dick" in Goodbye to All That) When challenged by the headmaster he defended himself by citing Plato, G ...more
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“About this business of being a gentleman: I paid so heavily for the fourteen years of my gentleman’s education that I feel entitled, now and then, to get some sort of return.” 5 likes
“Nor had I any illusions about Algernon Charles Swinburne, who often used to stop my perambulator when he met it on Nurses’ Walk, at the edge of Wimbledon Common, and pat me on the head and kiss me: he was an inveterate pram-stopper and patter and kisser.” 4 likes
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