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

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9780571245987: Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas

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's fatal decision to fight in the war. The book also evokes an astonishingly creative moment in English literature, when London was a battleground for new, ambitious kinds of writing. A generation that included W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost and Rupert Brooke were 'making it new' - vehemently and pugnaciously. These larger-than-life characters surround a central figure, tormented by his work and his marriage. But as his friendship with Frost blossomed, Thomas wrote poem after poem, and his emotional affliction began to lift. In 1914 the two friends formed the ideas that would produce some of the most remarkable verse of the twentieth century. But the War put an ocean between them: Frost returned to the safety of New England while Thomas stayed to fight for the Old. It is these roads taken - and those not taken - that are at the heart of this remarkable book, which culminates in Thomas's tragic death on Easter Monday 1917.

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About the Author :

Matthew Hollis is the author of Ground Water, short listed 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.

From Booklist :

*Starred Review* This exquisite, sad book’s British subtitle, The Last Years of Edward Thomas, is more exact than the American one. Especially since Thomas’ last years included the most important literary friendship in Anglophone modernist poetry, that of Thomas and Robert Frost. Both men seethed with impatience, Frost to publish a first collection—U.S. publishers wouldn’t oblige, and he’d come to England to see whether their British confreres would—and Thomas to write literature rather than the journalism and contract books he pumped out to support his family. Both achieved their goals. Frost’s A Boy’s Will and North of Boston each first saw the light in England, promoted by Thomas, among others; and Thomas began writing poems with exceptional fluency when work dried up with the outbreak of WWI. Initially ambivalent about the war, Thomas eventually enlisted; the salary offset some of his lost income, and he discovered the profound patriotism that quietly informs his verse—lyrical nature poetry as psychologically charged as the dramatic scenes and dialogues of his American friend. Frost returned to New England and, at last, a great career, corresponding with Thomas until a shell killed him at the front. Thomas had completed 141 poems, most of which Hollis discusses as he compellingly reveals the troubled personality of Britain’s first great modernist. --Ray Olson

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