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the Complete Review
the complete review - autobiographical

Time at War

Nicholas Mosley

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Time at War

Title: Time at War
Author: Nicholas Mosley
Genre: Memoir
Written: 2006
Length: 185 pages
Availability: Time at War - US
Time at War - UK
Time at War - Canada
  • Includes numerous photographs

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Our Assessment:

B : well done, but only a small part of a much larger biographical picture

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 9/9/2006 Francis Beckett
Literary Review . 11/2006 Raleigh Trevelyan
The Spectator . 21/10/2006 Anne Chisholm
Sunday Telegraph . 17/9/2006 Nigel Farndale
Sunday Times . 8/10/2006 Jeremy Lewis
TLS . 20/10/2006 Jeremy Treglown

  From the Reviews:
  • "It's attractively honest. There is no attempt to glorify the author, or to endow him with heroism, and when it describes events in which he displays considerable courage (he earned a Military Cross), it does so in a downbeat, self-mocking way. (...) But mostly we learn what this 20-year-old Etonian aristocrat was thinking about God, and Truth, and Nietzsche, which is not particularly illuminating. And we get the authentic aroma of English snobbery in letters and extracts from his diary which, to his credit, he has reproduced as he wrote them at the time, with no attempt to massage away the awkward bits." - Francis Beckett, The Guardian

  • "At the heart of this book is Nicholas Mosley’s gradual detachment of himself from his father’s powerful influence and his discovery of his own very different ideas and identity. (...) Although (despite the publishers’ claims to the contrary) much of the story Mosley tells here appears in his long and outstandingly good biography of his father which came out in the early 1980s, this account of himself when young digs deeper and reveals more about the author’s inner conflicts." - Anne Chisholm, The Spectator

  • "At times he has an amusing dialogue with his younger self, as encountered in his sometimes pretentious war diaries. (...) This new memoir deals only with his war years, and it captures deftly the contradictions of war – of luck and bravery; of farce and fear; of anarchy and meaning. It is a beguiling read." - Nigel Farndale, Sunday Telegraph

  • "Like Siegfried Sassoon in the trenches of the first world war, Mosley felt far closer to his German equivalents than to the purple majors at the base; and he, too, has written a masterly account of what war is really like." - Jeremy Lewis, Sunday Times

  • "It's this clash of the heroic and its opposites -- of all opposites, in fact -- that Mosley finds most expressive of life, and his book is itself a strange mixture." - Jeremy Treglown, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Time at War Nicholas Mosley writes of his experiences during and around World War II. Mosley is the son of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, who was arrested in June 1940 as a "security risk", while Nicholas was still at Eton. Dad's political stance surprisingly didn't cause Nicholas too many problems at Eton or then in the military, and despite his father's opposition to taking on the Germans Nicholas joined up like everybody else.
       Mosley joined the Rifle Brigade in 1942, training towards becoming an officer -- with no guarantee of success, especially given his bad stammer. He was, however, successful, and eventually wound up stationed and fighting in Italy. War, in this account, is both absurd and perfectly natural. One of his first battle orders -- to fire on the enemy -- is simply ignored by his troops (the right choice, it turns out), while injury, death, and being taken prisoner happen with a seeming randomness.
       Mosley tries to make the best of things -- including trying to make his way through as many books as possible -- but war intrudes and complicates all:

When things are not dangerously active I am intensely and professedly idle.
       He reads Nietzsche but philosophy (and literature) remain abstracts separate from the reality around him:
My own attitude to the war at this time was that it was just something to be got on with -- no more questions about ethics or justification.
       Time at War is of considerable biographical interest, as Mosley does explain how this formative time also helped shape him as a writer. And there are other biographical and historical asides of some interest (including the "gay style" apparently widespread both at Eton and in the military at that time). Nevertheless, the book feels very much like a chapter in a life, and is probably better read in its larger context -- Mosley's other biographical writings, as well as his fiction.
       Writing sixty years after the facts, Mosley admits to some confusion about some of the events, too: "Memory slips and wobbles", he acknowledges. Helpfully, however, much of the account is built up using lengthy quotes from letters he wrote back then, making the book also an encounter with his younger self, which comes off quite nicely.
       Engagingly written, Time at War doesn't stand entirely satisfactorily on its own, but is still a decent little addition to World War II literature -- as well as a useful addition to the continuing project that is Mosley's autobiographical writings.

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Time at War: Reviews: Nicholas Mosley: Other books by Nicholas Mosley under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Nicholas Mosley lived 1923 to 2017.

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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