PriestleyThe sub-title to the prolific and multi-talented John Boyton Priestley’s autobiographical work describes its as ‘A Writer’s Reminiscences and Reflections‘. The book is divided into three sections. The first is about his life after school, which he left at sixteen, complaining that it had become tedious, as a clerk for Helm & Co., a wool firm with offices in Bradford’s Swan Arcade. He refers to himself and this period as being ‘Swan Arcadian’. The second is about his seminal experiences as a soldier in the First World War (picture). And the third is about his life thereafter, primarily as an increasingly successful author and playwright. The periods covered are respectively, therefore, 1910-1914, 1914-1919, and 1920-1960. Clearly, the most important period in terms of the success he enjoyed was the third. But Priestley makes it abundantly clear that the most important periods for him were 1910-1914, which he describes as a sort of golden Edwardian heyday, and 1914-1919, the horrors of which brought a crushing and traumatic end to that heyday and to a – his – generation. Priestley makes light of his physical suffering (he was wounded twice) but the psychological wounds remained ever open. He wrote: ‘I felt as indeed I still feel today and must go on feeling until I die, the open wound, never to be healed, of my generation’s fate, the best sorted out and then slaughtered, not by hard necessity but by huge, murderous public folly (p. 136). Judith Cook’s DNB entry on Priestley describes how in his bitter letters home from the trenches he enclosed dried flowers found ‘growing out of dead men’. Cook cites fellow Bradfordian John Braine who said of him after his death: ‘I think the real Jack Priestley died in August 1914 somewhere on the Western Front … and what all those millions and millions of words were really written for was so that he wouldn’t remember the 1914–1918 War’. This book is full of aphorisms and poignant observations, including this one: ‘The only remarks I have ever heard that Shakespeare might have borrowed all came from private soldiers in that war.’ (p. 91)