A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson

Author(s): Peter J. Conradi

Biography | Staff Picks

Gentle, modest and handsome, a fine poet, proficient in nine languages, eccentric Englishman Frank Thompson made an unlikely soldier. The elder of two sons of a formidable family of writers (his brother would become the radical historian E. P. Thompson), lover of Iris Murdoch, he was an intellectual idealist, a rare combination of brilliant mind and enormous heart. Despite his mother's best efforts, and the Communist Party line (Iris had herself recruited him), in September 1939 Frank enlisted. Serving first with the Royal Artillery, then Phantom, finally moving to SOE to escape the 'long littleness of life', he documented his wartime experiences. He wrote prodigiously, letters, diaries and poetry, the best of which, the much anthologised 'An Epitaph for my Friends' - for many the landmark poem of the Second World War - gives a taste of what English poetry may have lost when in June 1944, aged twenty-three, Frank was captured, tortured and executed in Litakovo, Bulgaria; a sense of his ability to touch the reader, to speak for his generation, to bear witness to their lost youth. A dictionary he was carrying once stopped an enemy bullet and saved his life; a volume of the great Roman poet Catullus was found on him after his death: Frank fought a 'poet's war'. Frank's letters still read fresh and alive today, his journals retain a startling intimacy - and it's from these that Peter J. Conradi brings vividly to life a brilliantly attractive and courageous personality, a soldier-poet or scholar-soldier of principle and integrity: a very English hero from a very different era.


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An untold story of love, idealism and courage in the Second World War

A very moving account of the all-too-brief life of a warrior-poet Antony Beevor Moving and gripping, told with great lucidity and sympathy ... a story of heroic times and hopes Margaret Drabble One of the literary biographies of the year Michael Kerrigan, Scotsman on Iris Murdoch: A Life Moved me as biographies rarely do TLS Illuminating, touching and at times very funny Margaret Drabble, Guardian Books of the Year Full of deliriously eccentric characters who might have stepped through the exit door of one of her novels Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Peter J. Conradi became interested in Frank Thompson while researching his critically acclaimed Iris Murdoch: A Life, the authorised biography. He is also the author of The Saint and the Artist, a study of her novels and thought; of critical studies of Dostoevsky, Angus Wilson and John Fowles; and, most recently, Going Buddhist and At the Bright Hem of God. He lives in London and Radnorshire where he gardens, walks, edits the Radnorshire Transactions and chairs the Bleddfa Trust. He was elected FRSL in 2011.

General Fields

  • : 9781408802434
  • : Bloomsbury USA
  • : Bloomsbury USA
  • : 0.708
  • : July 2012
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Peter J. Conradi
  • : Hardback
  • : 432