An Autobiography 1897 - 1922
Stuart Cloete believed that the essential ingredient for the production of an autobiography was ‘not to give a damn’ and this set the tone for his honest and rich account of life, love and war.
Having grown up in Victorian Paris and lived through two world wars, Cloete looks back on the extraordinary changes he had witnessed. With the threat of atomic war looming, he considers whether in fact ‘progress’ has been positive. He is a critical observer who, to some extent has changed with the times, but is not impressed by them.
A Victorian Son must be one of the most vivid accounts of war ever written. His memory for detail and his ability to evoke emotion without being sentimental is astounding. His imagery such as ‘the mummified body of a German officer’ being used as a landmark is enough to portray how cheap life was; how pervasive death had become.
He not only recalls the terrifying battles, but the drudge of day to day trench warfare. He reflects on the ‘curious sense of brotherhood’ in the war and his survival, which was the most curious thing of all.
This first volume ends in 1922 when Cloete, now married, resumes life in post-war France.