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Time at War [Paperback]

Nicholas Mosley

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Book Description

Nov. 1 2006 British Literature Series

Aged twenty, and with no war experience, Nicholas Mosley found himself in charge of a platoon of men positioned along the Italian front during the Second World War. With his father in prison on charges of treason, he had enlisted primarily in an effort to improve his family image. But the war left Mosley a radically changed man: he had gone in out of personal convenience, and left with a sense of greater purpose. Saved from death by one of his men, holed up in barns and trenches and tents, and marching across Europe, Mosley found in war a certainty that eluded him in peacetime. "War is both senseless and necessary, squalid and fulfilling, terrifying and sometimes jolly," he writes. "This is like life. Humans are at home in war (though they seldom admit this). They feel they know what they have to do." In an interview conducted between 1977 and 1978, Nicholas Mosley said, "When I was young William Faulkner was my great love, not just because of the density of style, but because he seemed to be dealing with the question not of what will happen next but what is happening now. The first Faulkner novel I read was The Sound and the Fury, which I got hold of when we liberated a POW camp in Italy in 1944 and I liberated the Red Cross Library. I was about twenty.... What in god's name, after all, was I doing aged twenty in Italy in a war?"

Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (Nov. 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784568
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784568
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 14.3 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,814,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


a beguiling read.' -Nigel Farndale, The Telegraph

About the Author

Nicholas Mosley was born in London on June 25, 1923 and was educated at Eton and Oxford. He served in Italy during World War II, and published his first novel, Spaces of the Dark, in 1951. His book Hopeful Monsters won the 1990 Whitbread Award.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. Jan. 3 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Time at War is the autobiographical account of award-winning author Nicholas Mosley's service during World War II. Born in London, Mosley chose to enlist in the military at the age of twenty, to improve the status of his family name while his father was imprisoned by the government as an alleged security risk. Mosley served on the bloody Italian front, was once rescued from death by one of his men, and witnessed the devastation of war firsthand; but it was a war he knew had to be fought, and it kindled a sense of purpose in him that had eluded him during peacetime. A powerful true story about coming of age and learning to define oneself, as surely as it is a no-holds-barred firsthand account of the terrors and challenges of the European Theater of World War II, Time at War is highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A philosophical story of shame and redemption in the Italian Campaign Jan. 23 2011
By Luke Killion - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Time at War," the autobiography of Nicholas Mosley is one of the most philosophically influenced accounts of WWII. Mosley became quite a prolific writer after the war; he published many books and the style in which "Time at War" is written is both sophisticated and unique, reflecting the author's literary background and skills. As an original writer, Mosley did not mold his story of combat in Italy around traditional modes of storytelling; like the eccentric he is, his tale is constructed to show both the gritty facts of war and the thinking man's reaction to involvement in a situation which he believed was both utterly stupid yet highly necessary. This basic contradiction is central to Mosley's thoughts about the war; in the many letters he includes in the text the reader sees the introspective soldier after combat, coming to terms with the enormous burden of soldiery and the scars it leaves upon the psyche.

Mosley is definitely not the typical English officer and his story reflects this. Coming from a prominent upper class family, his father was the infamous pro-fascist rebel rouser Oswald Mosley. After the outbreak of war, Oswald was imprisoned as a risk to national security. The early stages of the book include many passages about the author's ambivalence toward his father; as a British teenager he was in many ways of a like mind with his contemporaries in the need to defend England, but there also exits a slightly anarchist tendency in his personality which relates to his father. As a student of philosophy he sees the war as futile and stupid but he still believes it to be his duty to serve. This is an interesting contradiction which is one of the major themes throughout the book. Despite this subversive nature, Mosley is swept up in the spirit of patriotism and uses family connections to enlist in Officer training school.

After training to be part of the Rifle Brigade, Mosley is transferred to the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles upon his arrival in Italy during the end of 1943. As a platoon commander in the 78th Infantry Division, Mosley finds himself on a thin part of the line, dug into the snow banks of a ridgeline at Christmas of 1943. His first experience in war almost proves to be his demise as both his inexperience and subconscious dislike for the war result in disaster. His platoon is surrounded by Germans and taken prisoner, but Mosley is miraculous saved by his friend Mervyn Davies. With the loss of his platoon, Mosley is deeply shamed, as he is disgraced both by his father and by his poor leadership.

Mosley does not let this discourage him for too long as his new platoon is moved to the rocky Cassino sector in March of 44. As the spring offensive down the LIri Valley begins in May, Mosley is wounded prior to the start of the assault and avoids serious combat. After leave in the hospital he returns at the end of the summer at the newly defended Gothic Line. It is here Mosley receives his redemption for both his father's mistakes and his own with a successful assault on Monte Spaduro. The attack was observed by the 78th's General who awarded Mosley the Military Cross. These scenes are the best part of the book and rank among the best descriptions of mountain combat in Italy.

As in a style typical of the whole book, Mosley follows up the combat portions with introspective letters he wrote to friends and family in his down time. In these his philosophical reflections on both the war's stupidity and it's necessity are laid forth, giving the book a nice balance between combat narrative and the personal side of a junior officer's psyche. The book ends with the brief advance through Northern Italy in April of 45. Though Mosley sees his share of combat, he is very selective about which events to expound upon and uses them to contrast his philosophical letters. A unique thinking man's memoir.

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