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Wilfred Owen: A New Biography

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Mr. Hibberd's new biography of the Great War's greatest poet, based on more than thirty years of wide-ranging research, brings new information and reinterpretation to virtually every phase of Owen's life--carefully guarded by family and friends after his death. Although Dominic Hibberd modestly says that his book 'is not, of course, definitive, ' it is hard to see how it c Mr. Hibberd's new biography of the Great War's greatest poet, based on more than thirty years of wide-ranging research, brings new information and reinterpretation to virtually every phase of Owen's life--carefully guarded by family and friends after his death. Although Dominic Hibberd modestly says that his book 'is not, of course, definitive, ' it is hard to see how it could be improved upon. --Times Literary Supplement


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Mr. Hibberd's new biography of the Great War's greatest poet, based on more than thirty years of wide-ranging research, brings new information and reinterpretation to virtually every phase of Owen's life--carefully guarded by family and friends after his death. Although Dominic Hibberd modestly says that his book 'is not, of course, definitive, ' it is hard to see how it c Mr. Hibberd's new biography of the Great War's greatest poet, based on more than thirty years of wide-ranging research, brings new information and reinterpretation to virtually every phase of Owen's life--carefully guarded by family and friends after his death. Although Dominic Hibberd modestly says that his book 'is not, of course, definitive, ' it is hard to see how it could be improved upon. --Times Literary Supplement

30 review for Wilfred Owen: A New Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie Bozza

    A re-read of this much-loved book, for reasons that might be obvious! ♦ While I certainly appreciated the 1974 biography by Jon Stallworthy, this 2002 effort by Dominic Hibberd is the definitive one. There is lots of detail about all aspects and periods of Wilfred Owen's life - but in particular it accepts that Owen was gay, and explores a little of that part of his life as well. Owen was an interesting person in his own right, and it is fascinating to explore him as both a poet and a soldier. The A re-read of this much-loved book, for reasons that might be obvious! ♦ While I certainly appreciated the 1974 biography by Jon Stallworthy, this 2002 effort by Dominic Hibberd is the definitive one. There is lots of detail about all aspects and periods of Wilfred Owen's life - but in particular it accepts that Owen was gay, and explores a little of that part of his life as well. Owen was an interesting person in his own right, and it is fascinating to explore him as both a poet and a soldier. These two occupations were often in direct conflict, but we are the richer for it. He was carefully planning his first volume of verse, organised by 'Motive', with the following words in the Preface: "Above all I am concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." He was killed at the age of 25 - the same tragically young age as Keats - and we are the poorer for that. Owen wasn't known by the general public in his day, but he had (on his own merits) established friendships and a reputation with some literary lights of the day. Who knows what he would have gone on to accomplish? But he was killed in the last battle of the Great War, only a week before Armistice. This story of his life is both marvellous and heart-breaking, affirming and ... oh, almost agonising. "The Poetry is in the pity."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    The best biography so far of this somewhat mysterious and mythologised poet - certainly the first that treats him as a human being, with human wants and desires, rather than either a saint or a weirdo. Owen's tragic, early death in combat, less than a week before the end of the war in 1918, looms large over his story, robbing English letters of a man who was already becoming a truly remarkable poet by the time of his demise, but Hibberd never loses sight of the fact that his subject was both sol The best biography so far of this somewhat mysterious and mythologised poet - certainly the first that treats him as a human being, with human wants and desires, rather than either a saint or a weirdo. Owen's tragic, early death in combat, less than a week before the end of the war in 1918, looms large over his story, robbing English letters of a man who was already becoming a truly remarkable poet by the time of his demise, but Hibberd never loses sight of the fact that his subject was both soldier and poet, with all that entails. Brilliantly written, and an enthralling and fascinating account of an all-too short life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Hibberd does a fabulous job at making the long-dead Owen come to life. I tried delaying finishing it because as I read on, I felt like I knew him as a friend. Then all I could do was wish to learn more, and lament how much of his work was burned at his request or how many of his letters were mutilated by his brother, ashamed of what they'd reveal. It's a highly detailed, absorbing portrait of a poet, but it still highlights how much we don't know and may never know. I highly recommend it for any Hibberd does a fabulous job at making the long-dead Owen come to life. I tried delaying finishing it because as I read on, I felt like I knew him as a friend. Then all I could do was wish to learn more, and lament how much of his work was burned at his request or how many of his letters were mutilated by his brother, ashamed of what they'd reveal. It's a highly detailed, absorbing portrait of a poet, but it still highlights how much we don't know and may never know. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Owen, the Great War, or biography in general.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ken Ross

    Interesting read about one of the most skilled poets of the 20th Century.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This new biography of the poet who gave us some of the most direct and affecting poetry of the Great War is an excellent, well-balanced read. While Hibberd delves more deeply into the personal and family life of Wilfred Owen than have previous biographers, he doesn't neglect the growth of the poet along with the man. Dealing frankly not only with Owen's evolving religious skepticism and his growth out of Keats and Shelley towards modern Decadent and Georgian poetry, but with the heretofore suppr This new biography of the poet who gave us some of the most direct and affecting poetry of the Great War is an excellent, well-balanced read. While Hibberd delves more deeply into the personal and family life of Wilfred Owen than have previous biographers, he doesn't neglect the growth of the poet along with the man. Dealing frankly not only with Owen's evolving religious skepticism and his growth out of Keats and Shelley towards modern Decadent and Georgian poetry, but with the heretofore suppressed topic of his homosexuality (inextricably intertwined with his progress as a poet), Hibberd shows clearly how a former Anglican assistant pastor, driven by a responsibility to witness to and care for the men he led into battle, could become one of the great poets of war and its after-effects. The book is frank but not sensational, and freely acknowledges that there is much of Owen's life and private thought that we will never know, thanks in large part to the censorship and destruction of "compromising" letters by Owen's surviving brother Harold. However, the wealth of material and the many scholarly resources involved make this perhaps the best and most complete biography yet of this essential poet and soldier.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Simon Fletcher

    100 years on from the beginning of the First World War Wilfred Owen remains the most famous of the War poets. The events of his life are well known. He went to war, suffered Shell shock and was killed A mere 5 days before the end of the war. The truth though is, as always, this and much more. Hibberd's biography gives us a picture of a man who was difficult, ambitious, and driven and whose relationship with his mother was less than healthy. Hibberd writes well and the biography is well researched 100 years on from the beginning of the First World War Wilfred Owen remains the most famous of the War poets. The events of his life are well known. He went to war, suffered Shell shock and was killed A mere 5 days before the end of the war. The truth though is, as always, this and much more. Hibberd's biography gives us a picture of a man who was difficult, ambitious, and driven and whose relationship with his mother was less than healthy. Hibberd writes well and the biography is well researched. My one criticism is that at times it wears it's research on its sleeves and is a little too dense to be a really enjoyable read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott Humphreys

    Whether you enjoy the poems of Wilfred Owen or not, his short but eventful life is symbolic testimony to one of the most tragic periods in British history. It is ironic that his experience of war was to bring out the best in his work, and the fact he was to die only a few days before it ended is a terrible loss. For me Wilfred Owen always felt like an enigmatic character of war that, apart from his poetry, no one really knew anything about, but this book really brings him to life. It is extremel Whether you enjoy the poems of Wilfred Owen or not, his short but eventful life is symbolic testimony to one of the most tragic periods in British history. It is ironic that his experience of war was to bring out the best in his work, and the fact he was to die only a few days before it ended is a terrible loss. For me Wilfred Owen always felt like an enigmatic character of war that, apart from his poetry, no one really knew anything about, but this book really brings him to life. It is extremely well researched and thoughtfully written, and when I'd finished it almost felt like I'd actually experienced a little of his life. A great read!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christine Parker

    More than just a biography. The details of Owens life are presented in a very readable way with an astonishing amount of background. The 'under fire' actions are vivid in their description. 4 stars only because I prefer Sassoon!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Absolutely one of the best biographies I've ever read. I feel utterly bereft now I've finished reading this. I kept wishing that history could somehow rewrite itself as I approached the last chapter...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shannon McCue

    hibberd's style is pretty sweet.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Exhaustive biography of the poet which gives good coverage of his pre-war work. Accessible style. Nice illustrations and maps.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    A fantastic biography-Hibberd keeps enough distance from Owen so his account doesn't come across as too gushing, and his account of Owen's campaigns and battles were well written

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joe M-H

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kieran

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ledrew

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  18. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike Murashige

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sally Irvine

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tiny Keats

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Swain

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jen Gallagher

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

  27. 4 out of 5

    PMR1

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Morgan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara Mcgrail

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Outlaw

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