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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

SHORT NOTES Stars in a Dark Night, The Letters of Ivor Gurney to the Chapman Family, edited by Anthony Boden (Sutton Publishing) £7.99.

Although based on the edition of eighteen years ago, the substantial revisions make this a rather different book (224 instead of 126 pages). It retains the material which made it so approachable. We still have the letters which Gurney wrote to the family in High Wycombe who brought out in him the happiest of family feelings which he scarcely found at home, with their talk of ping pong and cricket. We still have back-garden photographs of 'La Comtesse' and her husband and children. We still have the contrasting visual images of the trenches. We still have the reproduction of the field post card, a useful reminder of what could be expected at the Front, and the autograph book entries.

The book has been carefully re-thought (though I would have liked an index). The photographs are such an important part that it is pleasant to see that the paper has been chosen to improve the sharpness of the images. There are additions of faces of friends and contacts who meant so much in Gurney's life; there is a useful booklist, the letters have been re-ordered to stress the chronology and the narrative has been noticeably expanded and corrected to provide what is the most effective short introduction to Gurney's story. It does not unduly emphasise the madness or the war, or shirk the difficult questions, but it stresses Gurney's unconventional liveliness of mind, which is reaffirmed in his lyrical essay on 'The Springs of Music' with which it ...


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