Siegfried Sassoon

Bookshelf 5

The Old Century and Seven More Years

The Old Century and seven more years

The three page ‘Prelude’ that Sassoon writes to introduce this book is, in my opinion, the most beautiful piece of writing he ever produced. I can hear that small boy speaking those words to his mother as he stares into the waters of Watercress Well. I can see those bubbles rising through the crystal clear water. The breeze whispering through the trees and across the meadow, the little robin dropping down to the rivulet.

A little boy standing beside his mother asking her simple questions about what he sees around him in the Weald, the pure, innocent nostalgia is exquisitely moving and an utter delight.

“Recovered in my clear memory of that spring morning,” Sassoon writes, “the words now seem like part of a parable.” If you like to read about childhood, and recollections of a lost past, you must read this book if you read none of the others.

First published in 1938, ‘The Old Century and Seven More Years’ tells the true story of Siegfried Sassoon’s first twenty-one years of life from 1886 to 1907. The book predominantly is a ‘happy’ book. It is about a country house in Kent, where Sassoon grew up with his brothers and mother. It is also about school, rich relations and life seen through the eyes of a boy growing into a young man at the turn of that century. This is Sassoon’s real autobiography and a taster for his later books. I urge you to read this book, once you do, you will look for all of the others.

Read a review of this book published in The Saturday Review, 14th January, 1939.

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