recently read: The Missing of the Somme, Geoff Dyer.
This is my first read of the summer, and if this is any indication, this is going to be a summer of great books. The Missing of the Somme is described as “part travelogue, part meditation on remembrance” and this is certainly accurate—I would say that the “meditation on remembrance” occupies most of the first half of the book, and the travelogue aspect really kicks in at the end, mingling together with the discussion on remembrance in a really beautiful way.
Dyer writes about the modes of memory surrounding and built up both by and because of World War I, focusing particularly on the war memorials and artistic and poetic renditions of the Great War. Anyone else’s take on this subject could be plodding or leaden; Dyer’s prose manages to handle the subject in a substantive, but never oppressive, way. There is a heaviness to what he writes, but he handles it well.
This is a surprisingly quick read, and one that felt earnest and true. There is a quietness to Dyer’s book, in which he explores difficulties of the modern condition, but allows them to rest and simply exist, rather than beating them past recognition. This, to my mind, is the greatest success of his work. Vital, too, to his register is the way he presents his exhaustive research: it never feels burdensome.
I’m so pleased I read this, and I’m very thankful that it was suggested and lent to me.