Trench warfare

Longing for oblivion: The Warm Hands of Ghosts, by Katherine Arden, reviewed

This novel, set towards the end of the first world war, is eerie and fanciful yet gruesomely down-to-earth. It features Laura Iven, formerly a nurse at the Front – awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1915 – and her brother Freddie, part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force sent to take Passchendaele Ridge in November 1917. Owing to a deep shrapnel wound, Laura is back home in Halifax, Canada. It is January 1918, and the previous month her parents died when their ship Mont Blanc exploded in Halifax harbour. To make matters even worse, Freddie is missing. Laura is now a live-in nurse companion to three elderly sisters who conduct séances.

The short, unhappy life of Ivor Gurney — wounded, gassed and driven insane

The poet and composer Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) is a classic but nevertheless shocking example of literary neglect. Although he brought out two respectfully received collections of war poetry during his lifetime, the idiosyncrasies of his style have prevented him from being widely recognised as the equal of his greatest contemporaries. His history of mental illness has further destabilised the reception of his work, not just by encouraging people to think of him as crazy, but by compounding practical difficulties surrounding its publication. In the 1980s Michael Hurd wrote a somewhat sketchy biography, and P.J. Kavanagh edited an expanded, but still partial, sample of his work. Only now has Kate Kennedy,