In her diligent and insightful biography of Graves, Jean Moorcroft Wilson teases the truth from Graves’s exaggerations, mis-rememberings and downright fibs. Moorcroft Wilson, who has written the lives of Sassoon and Edward Thomas, is an even-handed biographer. She is by turns compassionate and caustic. She is clear-sighted when cutting though Graves’s 'condescending and disingenuous' attitude to his father’s poetry.
Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s commanding new biography reveals the poet to be a slipperier character than we imagined ... Wilson tells this story with meticulous attention to detail and an almost omniscient command of her sources. In doing so she offers a number of small but necessary corrections to the sometimes self-serving inaccuracies of Graves’s own account of the same period, and persuasively argues that Graves’s father made a more significant contribution to his son’s poetic success than Graves was prepared to allow. The real strength of this biography, however, lies in the care and vigour with which it animates the conflicting strands of Graves’s personality. To encounter him in these pages is to feel something of the relentlessly explosive energy with which he lived the first half of his life. Wilson lands him like a Zeppelin bomb.
Jean Moorcroft Wilson, the veteran biographer of First World War poets, devotes 10 of her 24 chapters to Graves’s wartime experience, from his joining the army a week after Britain declared war, to his exemption from service with damaged lungs in 1918 ... an exemplary biography and a terrific entertainment. Moorcroft Wilson knows the territory of war inside out, and explores Graves’s peculiar psyche with sympathy but a sharp eye for his failings. She brings this difficult, unlovable but strangely impressive man yelpingly to life.