#BookReview: Alan Lloyd: The Lost Generation by Isobel Charman

Historical Nonfiction
War Era Historical

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‘There’s never a minute of the day now that guns aren't firing. I write from my dug out in the O.P. Aeroplanes overhead, guns booming, rifles cracking, bullets swinging away, it’s the same thing day after day.’

As a boy, Alan Lloyd could never have imagined the harsh realities of the war he would one day fight in. In this retelling of his story, using extracts from diaries and correspondence, including Alan’s letters to his wife from the front line, Isobel Charman has woven together the tale of a journey from privileged young man to officer fighting for his life and country in World War One.

Descended from the Lloyds banking family, Alan grew up wanting for nothing. He studied at Cambridge, where his life revolved around rowing, cricket and planning his future. After university, he fell in love with Dorothy and set about forging a career in farming, but then, just as the couple were ready to settle down, war broke out.

Against the wishes of his devout Quaker family, Alan joined the army. In July 1915 he left for France, where his life became one of guns, trenches, death and survival in the Great War.

This is the full account of Alan Lloyd’s life, whose experiences were featured in ITV’s The Great War: The People's Story. The stories from the television series, form a set of personal, moving and at times humorous accounts of courage, love and loyalty in one of the worst wars in modern history.

I owe my interest in Isobel Charman's Alan Lloyd: The Lost Generation to Matthew McNulty, the actor who played Alan in ITV’s The Great War: The People's Story. The World War I docudrama covers the lives of several ordinary individuals as seen through their own diaries and letters, but something about the way McNulty played Alan stuck in my head and ultimately led to my discovery and purchase of Charman's biography.

Beginning with Alan's family background, the book chronicles the whole of Alan's life, but the heart of the story is his relationship with Dorothy and how it grew, changed, and was eventually defined by World War I. Lloyd's letters offer unique insight into the lifestyle of the well-to-do and his personality draws the reader into both the emotional and physical experience of fighting in the trenches and while I'd have loved to see more of Dorothy's own letters to Alan, I couldn't help falling for the story of this young couple caught up in the turmoil of war.

At only one hundred twenty-nine pages, the narrative is not a long or drawn out affair and historically, I can't recommend Alan Lloyd: The Lost Generation as a particularly noteworthy, but there's something to be said for firsthand accounts and Alan's view of the world makes an engaging read beginning to end.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: April 6, 2017

We’re an old veteran crew, and we got a bad start and Leander got a bad start, but in the end they won and we’ll win and that’s all there is to it.