Now All Roads Lead to France: A Life of Edward Thomas
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Now All Roads Lead to France: A Life of Edward Thomas

by Matthew Hollis
     
 

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Winner of the Costa Biography Award, a fascinating exploration of one of the twentieth century’s most influential poets.

Edward Thomas was perhaps the most beguiling and influential of the war poets. This haunting account of his final five years follows him from his beloved English countryside to the battlefield in France where he lost his life.

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Overview

Winner of the Costa Biography Award, a fascinating exploration of one of the twentieth century’s most influential poets.

Edward Thomas was perhaps the most beguiling and influential of the war poets. This haunting account of his final five years follows him from his beloved English countryside to the battlefield in France where he lost his life.

When he met the American poet Robert Frost in 1913, Thomas was tormented by feelings of failure in his work and in his marriage. With Frost’s encouragement he began writing poem after poem as he finally found the expression for which he had spent his life searching. But the First World War put an ocean between them: Frost returned to New England while Thomas enlisted and went to fight in France. It is these roads taken—and not taken—that are at the heart of this unforgettable book, which culminates in Thomas’s tragic death on Easter Monday, 1917.

Now All Roads Lead to France encompasses an astonishingly creative moment in English literature, when London was a battleground for new, ambitious writing. A generation that included W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, and Rupert Brooke was “making it new”—vehemently and pugnaciously—and this dazzling biography places Thomas firmly in their midst.

Editorial Reviews

Guardian
“[An] excellent account…beautifully structured by place, year and season.”
Carol Ann Duffy
“I read this book entranced, inspired, anxious, and grateful, and I finished it in tears. It is important and it is wonderful.”
Kirkus Reviews
A perceptive biography that traces an author's trajectory from disillusioned prose scribe to acclaimed poet. American readers may be forgiven for not knowing the work of Edward Thomas (1878–1917). While lauded as one of England's best 20th-century poets, his work has been overshadowed in the United States by that of his fellow World War I–era bards Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Yet Thomas's life was just as dramatic and his poetry equally haunting, especially considering that he only began composing poems in the last three years of his life. A man tormented by depression, ill-suited to his marriage, aloof toward his children, and disgusted by the hack work that he had to churn out in order to earn a living, Thomas underwent a radical transformation when he met Robert Frost in 1913. Frost had moved to England in hopes of finding the success that was still eluding him back home, and he quickly fell in with Thomas' literary circle. The two men immediately hit it off, sharing a keen understanding of the importance of cadence and rhythm to creating the mood of a poem. With Frost's encouragement, Thomas began drafting poems that reflected his keen appreciation of nature as well as his thoughts on romantic love, rural landscapes and, increasingly, the war. By the time of his death, he had left behind a significant oeuvre, but the only poems published in his lifetime were written under a pseudonym. Poet Hollis (Ground Water, 2004), who edited a volume of Thomas' selected poetry, expertly recreates the upheaval of English society as it made the transition from genteel post-Victorianism to brash modernism. Thomas stood poised on the dividing line between W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot and justly remains a towering figure in English poetry. This diligently researched and masterfully written exposition will appeal to Anglophiles and fans of literary biography.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393089837
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
10/15/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Matthew Hollis is the author of Ground Water, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize for Poetry, the Guardian First Book Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Now All Roads Lead to France is his first prose book. It was awarded the H. W. Fisher Best First Biography Prize and the 2011 Costa Biography Prize.

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