Memorandum: Poems for the Fallen by Vanessa Gebbie is resounding with readers in a variety of ways. Rachel Fenton posted a review in 25 memos on Twitter (follow her @RaeJFenton; search for #Memorandum). This has to be the most unusual and beautiful review format of any of our books. Each memo on a Post-It note, photographed. All 25 memos can be read on Rachel Fenton’s blog, snow like thought.
Tim Love also posted an essay on Litrefs Reviews, incorporating his own thoughts on the way world wars have been depicted in literature with family history, photographs, and a review of the book. The article ends:
A final risk with writing war poems is appearing to over-emote about people you never knew, displaying the expected, dutiful emotion. These poems side-step that too. In a way they’re memorials themselves; austere yet accessible, letting the reader supply their own emotions.
Sarah Salway has also reacted to the collection on her website:
But I still hadn’t expected to be so moved by the poems in this book. Every poem brings history to life in a way I haven’t often seen elsewhere. I really do think this is a book that should be studied in schools – every poem remind us that these are real men (and women) finding themselves in an unreal situation…
Finally, we were delighted to receive a card from Max Egremont, commenting on ‘a very handsome production’, after sending him a copy of Memorandum: Poems for the Fallen. There are many people that contribute to the production of a book, to do justice to the authors’ words with typesetting, cover image and design, copyediting and so on. The words and their authors should, of course, be at the forefront, but it is good to get this kind of recognition. Max Egremont gives this endorsement, on the back cover of the book:
Vanessa Gebbie’s First World War poems evoke memory and battle, ranging from memorials and Armistice Day parades to stabbing pain. From the idea of a shell reverting to its unmade, peaceful state to dead men buried in Brighton and France being mourned by their mother in Glasgow, she shows the often agonising and transformational effects of war. There are heartrending images such as the Tower of London’s ceramic poppies seen as callow recruits, doubts about a corpse’s identity and how dregs at the bottom of a cup can be reminiscent of the deadly Flanders mud. Blunden and Rosenberg, witnesses and war poets, are here. But this is a modern view, wise and compassionate, of Europe’s fatal wound.
Max Egremont, author of Siegfried Sassoon: A Biography and
Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew
Go to Events for details of where to hear Vanessa Gebbie reading from Memorandum.