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The Grace of Forgetting

The Grace of Forgetting, by Geoffrey Winthrop Young. 352 pages, with 29 photographs and 5 line illustrations, including 2 maps by Leo Vernon. London: Country Life, 1953. Price, 21/—.

Geoffrey Winthrop Young’s latest book is made up of memories—all “pictures in colour,” as the author explains—of life at his family’s island home on the Thames; of journeys to Mount Athos, among the Aegean islands, across Asia Minor; of service in the first War as a correspondent and then as a member of ambulance units in Flanders and on the Italian front. There are brief glimpses also of life at his “second home” in Ireland and at Monte Fiano, above Florence, and of excursions in the Pyrenees and in Massachusetts. No doubt each reader will remember a different set of “pictures.” I have noticed Balfour’s “very long brilliantly striped socks,” lifted high on the side of the punt in which he reclined; the “blood-red head-scarves” on the “Greek pirates of villainous aspect” who acted (or, rather, failed to act) as crew of a boat chartered at Salonika by the author’s brother; “the great white wall overhung with vines and the cherry-tree in blossom” at Monte Fiano; “the crash and flare of unintermittent explosion” at Ypres; the golden oriole flashing among green trees at Gorizia. (I observe that the reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement, 15 January 1954, has indeed made a different list.) Everyone, I should think, will remember how after Caporetto the author, who had recently lost a leg, coped with an intolerably officious Italian captain: “I vaulted forward on an armswing over the bonnet of my car, caught the captain’s wrist, and discharged my most throaty Florentine curses in counterblast to his abusive yelps.” The Grace of Forgetting has little to do with climbing, but it reveals something of our distinguished Honorary Member and of a way of life. So does his poem “Laughter,” in Wind and Hill, from which the title of the new book is drawn. To read Geoffrey Winthrop Young is still to wish for more.

D. A. Robertson, Jr.