Book: Men at Arms, by Evelyn Waugh
Genre and Year of Publication: WW II Fiction, 1952
Where I got it: Lent to me by a friend (VA)
Length: 246 pages
Briefly, it follows the military career of Guy Crouchback, a 35-year-old Englishman, who enlists for the army at the outbreak of World War II, through his training period and initial posting to Senegal.
Comments: This book is full of dry wit. Allegedly based loosely on Waugh’s own war-time experience, it describes an army which is confused, chaotic, unclear about its objectives and largely operating with very, very limited information about what is going on elsewhere. Most of Crouchback’s time with his division is spent awaiting orders to move elsewhere. There is an element of boarding school to some of the adventures, and to the whole tone of upholding the ancient traditions of the regiment. Waugh’s makes his point about the pointlessness of the war with humour and lightness of touch. Crouchback is a likeable character, and the reader is on his side when his time in West Africa ends in his being sent home in disgrace.
This is the first book of a trilogy, and I would certainly read the two subsequent volumes, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender.
There are many reviews online; I like the one at http://brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1251/Men%20at%20Arms.htm
Challenges: Back to the Classics Challenge for the category “A Wartime Classic”