Unsettlingly, this is a war story written before the second world war. Forester did not know for a fact there'd be a war but somehow this novel anticipates it. Of course its about The Great War, the war to end all wars, the 1914-1918 war. But the mishaps and the misdeeds and the sheer wrong-headedness of the generalship still holds good. This book's about one of those generals - a fictional general who might have been one of the better ones but still a fool. It's a beautiful drawn portrait and the story holds things together while he paints it. There;s the cutest of love stories and it's a superb depiction of the time. The snobbery, power in the wrong hands, the way decisions are made. Such a delight to read, reminiscent of the best of Somerset Maugham. It starts out with a man in a bathchair. Then the story deals with how he got that way - a hero talked about in whispers who ends his days being pushed along along the beachfront in Bournemouth. The story is compelling as is the general. We feel for him, side with him but at the same time shake our collective head at him. How could he be so stupid and at the same time so successful. By being in the right place at the right time. His bravery could be construed as stupidity and his success as luck. What ever it is, this great man with the red tabs on his collar, winds up where we find him on the first page - nothing much. The reader can take it as a portrait, as the cover picture- a painting of a group of generals - invites us to. We can take it as an anti-war piece. Or it can be seen as a sobering reflection on the way Britain worked. But which ever way we see it, it remains a compelling piece of writing that doesn't rely on graphic action or fancy footwork, high drama, to keep you reading. It is just beautifully written, the sort of writing in which the writer ceases to exist - in other words, the best.