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Goodbye to All That

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  14,033 ratings  ·  759 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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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 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
The opposite of a love letter to Edwardian England, a literary explanation in the form of a memoir of why the author abandoned he land of his birth in favour of Majorca, despite the experiences of George Sand and Frederic Chopin in the Balearic Islands.

The book has a striking description of Robert von Rancke Graves' (view spoiler) formal schooling as perversion, a form of espalier that prevented him from growing freely, i
Nov 29, 2009 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
Jamie Smith
This is one of the great books to come out of the First World War. It is usually categorized as a memoir, but there is probably more fiction in it than fact. Graves was up-front about this: he wrote the book in just eleven weeks, because he needed the money, and admitted that he threw in every plot element he could think of that would help it sell. For all that, it transcends its genre, because sometimes fiction reveals more than fact. By not restricting himself to just what he personally saw an ...more
David Sarkies
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A Poet at War
19 December 2017

As I was wandering through Newtown in Sydney I came across a crate of books dumped at the side of the road. Considering that the law states that if somebody throws something away then it ceases to by anybody's property which basically means that anybody can then make a claim to possess that object, and also due to the fact that they appeared to have begun to be worn down by the elements, I concluded that the owner of these books no longer wanted them. So, I decided
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 a 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 w ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: worldwar1, memoirs
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
Nov 07, 2012 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
May 23, 2014 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
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
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
Mikey B.
Jan 22, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I really struggled through the first thirty or so pages of this and started to skim. It just wasn’t for me. I had no desire to trudge through another three hundred pages. I found the writing insipid and just plain dry and dull. I had no desire to read of Robert Graves upbringing of schools and headmasters and the people he met. I have read books on the British school system - “Of Human Bondage” comes to mind and that was far more passionate and meaningful.

About half of this book is on Graves’ Wo
Jan 18, 2014 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
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
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As Paul Fussell so well points out in THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY, young Britons of all classes rushed to support King and Country in World War I. Those ideals were dashed and this book, originally published in 1929, helps explain how. I would not say it is the best book in terms of style, but I will say that the episodes in this book, mostly taking place in the British military during World War One, are more than memorable and usually funny or bitterly funny in a way that supports one ongoi ...more
Katie Lumsden
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm so glad I read this book. Graves's descriptions of his experience during the war and moving, educational and brilliantly written. His experience in the post-war literary circles, his detailed exploration of trench life and his choice of anecdotes throughout overall made this a fascinating, if difficult, read. ...more
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed Robert Graves’ work. While he was, for the most part, forthright and candid with his thoughts and exploits, I did also feel he held back in his post-war experiences, perhaps for commercial reasons. He appeared to have much more to share with us.

Something about World War I I’ll never apparently understand, what was the allure of the trench to so many soldiers? Why did so many feel the urge to return, even when freed from the horrors? And why, when there, did so many willingly follow the
Adam Nevill
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
That complete immersion in a book when you're held fast by a writer's voice, for hours, doesn't happen for me as a reader as much as it did when I was younger. But it still happens. This week Robert Graves's enduringly relevant memoir 'Goodbye to All That' transfixed me. It seems to contain everything that matters and makes it matter.

For a time, he lived and wrote close to our home, which was my motivation for reading the book (the timing of reading this book during the Week of Remembrance and A
Aug 20, 2010 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 had shut down after that time.

As a schoolboy, Graves suffered under the herd mentality at boarding school
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ww1
The opening about his school years was surprisingly interesting and would have loved for that to have been explored in more depth. Graves was bullied and had issues concerning identity (having a multinational background/ancestry). He was a nerd (ie true scholar!), he gets bullied by the richer kids who can coast on connections and money and find scholarship tedious (reminds of Kvothe in Name of the Wind when he goes to magic school). Graves goes full Karate Kid, takes up boxing and lays waste to ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best first person narrative of service in the First World War.
Oct 03, 2012 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
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-world-war
This is the renowned poet Robert Graves' autobiography up until 1929 (revised in 1957) and is truly extraordinary, and worth reading - both for insights into the author's life, and what the stale-mated Great War in France was actually like, since it's described in all its horror, the mindless slaughter continuing alongside the surreal clinging to class divisions despite the carnage. It's strange to think that 1957 was only 40 years post-WWI - yet in 1957 we all thought we were in a shiny new age ...more
Mar 02, 2010 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
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
As Hartley noted the past is a foreign land and Graves treads lightly. I wrote a university friend last night I had not seen in 27 years. He and the woman I loved had started a relationship and the riptide of life pushed us far apart. He's now a minister. We shall see.

Graves takes the reader by the hand from childhood through the public school and immediately t the Western Front. Each step is harrowing. Pained. Then Armistice and marriage and family. No gap years for Graves. The friendship with
Don Incognito
Oct 30, 2012 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 attacks and between attacks--was like. Tr ...more
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
All the chickenhawks who think war is wonderful and glorious should read this book. Then go enlist.
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
WW1 continues to represent the worst that war can bring to the soldier. Robert Graves tells us with his marvelous sense of humor of the days of his privileged youth ending at the age of 19 when he eagerly went to France to see action as an officer in the trenches.

The result is a powerful account that places the horror of the war in contrast to what had gone before, the kind of life that nobody in Europe could return to afterward thus the poignant title.

We see that the war reached everyone regard
Oct 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a tale of three periods of Robert Graves's life, which spans his childhood, his involvement in WWI and the post-war years between 1918-1929. At this point the autobiography ends when Graves is 33. Graves added an epilogue later in which he comments that re-reading Goodbye to All That is much akin to reading ancient history.

Graves takes us through his childhood years at a series of public schools, most notably Charthouse and then the main focus of WWI takes centre stage. I found Grav
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Robert von 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, Gr ...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.” 7 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.” 6 likes
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