Michael Korda on Her Privates We

Frederic Manning's novel (considered so shocking in its day that it was published under his serial number, not his name) is the classic novel of World War One, about British soldiers on the Somme and the Aisne fronts in 1916/1917, written in prose that still has the power to shock today. It is also the grandfather of all great modern war novels, including Hemingway, Remarque, and Mailer. Published in London by Peter Davies in 1930, it is one of those masterpieces that seems to have slipped off people's reading lists, but it ought not to have. Reading it is like sipping a 50-year-old singe malt whisky, to be taken in small, appreciative doses, with the best sip at the very end—a surprise.