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Book Title: From the City, from the Plough.|
The author of the book: Alexander Baron
ISBN 13: 9780224600194
Date of issue: December 1948
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 459 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.7
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This is a forgotten war novel with a rather naff title. Published in 1948, it sold over a million copies and was hailed as a masterpiece on both sides of the Atlantic. It is the story of the 5th battalion, the Wessex regiment (based on the actual 5th Wiltshire regiment), which took men from rural Somerset and the east end of London (hence the title).
The novel follows the men of the fifth from the waiting and preparation for D-Day, across the channel and into France, culminating in the taking of a hill called Pincon. Baron had been in the Young Communist League in the 30s and had been active in the East End opposing Mosley’s Blackshirts. He broke with the communists following Hitler’s pact with Stalin, but remained left wing. Baron wrote from his own experience. He was a sapper in the Pioneer Corps (being too short-sighted to be trusted with a rifle). The Sappers were first on the beaches on D-Day where they cleared barbed wire and dug up mines to allow the main force through. He never rose above the rank of corporal and one of the characters is based on him.
I think this is one of the best war novels I have read; better than For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms (maybe not as well written). At the time it was compared favourably with All Quiet on the Western Front. So why has it been forgotten? Much of the history of the Second World War in literature and film is about the heroic; great escapes, the few, tales of bravery and great victories. This book is not like that, nor is it the satire of Catch 22 and its ilk.
It is the simply told story of how ordinary men reacted to war and what they felt.. His characters are balanced, not all the officers are fools and tyrants and the men are not working class heroes. Those who act with heroism are not predictable; sometimes they are the characters who are the least likeable. There is humour and humanity, but the messiness and brutality of war is starkly portrayed. Baron uses the contrast with the natural landscape in June and July to great effect and some of the passages are heart wrenching. Underlying it all is a deep fury and the last chapter ranks as one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have come across.
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Read information about the authorLibrarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
Alexander Baron (4 December 1917 – 6 December 1999) was a British author and screenwriter. He is best known for his highly acclaimed novel about D-Day entitled From the City from the Plough (1948) and his London novel The Lowlife (1963). His father was Barnet Bernstein, a Polish-Jewish immigrant to Britain who settled in the East End of London in 1908 and later worked as a furrier. Alexander Baron was born in Maidenhead and raised in the Hackney district of London. He attended Hackney Downs School. During the 1930s, with his schoolfriend Ted Willis, Baron was a leading activist and organiser of the Labour League of Youth (at that time aligned with the Communist Party), campaigning against the fascists in the streets of the East End. Baron became increasingly disillusioned with far left politics as he spoke to International Brigade fighters returning from the Spanish Civil War, and finally broke with the communists after the Hitler–Stalin Pact of August 1939.
Baron served in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army during World War II, experiencing fierce fighting in the Italian campaign, Normandy and in Northern France and Belgium. As a sapper, he was among the first Allied troops to be landed in Sicily, Italy and on D-Day. He used his wartime experiences as the basis for his three best-selling war novels. After the war he became assistant editor of Tribune before publishing his first novel From the City from the Plough (1948). At this time, at the behest of his publisher Jonathan Cape, he also changed his name from Bernstein to Baron.
Baron's personal papers are held in the archives of the University of Reading. His wartime letters and unpublished memoirs were used by the historian Sean Longden for his book To the Victor the Spoils, a social history of the British Army between D Day and VE Day. Baron has also been the subject of essays by Iain Sinclair and Ken Worpole.
As well as continuing to write novels, in the 1950s Baron wrote screenplays for Hollywood, and by the 1960s he had become a regular writer on BBC's Play for Today, for drama serials like Poldark and A Horseman Riding By, and BBC classic adaptions including Jane Eyre, Sense And Sensibility, and Oliver Twist.
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