Magda Russell: "I began Nobody of Any Importance two nights ago and have had virtually no sleep since. Because of its length, I'm resigned to the life of an insomniac for another few nights. It's everything a memoir should be - honest and true. He's such a compelling, natural, writer and that is so unusual.”
Anna Wagstaff: "Hugely enjoyed your book… Great story. Can't believe there is much else out there that can compare. I was completely absorbed for a week. What a good guy eh?"
Nico Brown: "I've just put down 'Nobody Of Any Importance' and just want to thank you for bringing it out. I thought I'd read every kind of narrative about that war. I was always interested in the poetry, and when I was at UEA I did a whole module on the literature, across national and genre boundaries. When I put on my Theatre-in-Education piece 'A Blighty One' I dug it all up again, and tried particularly to get close to the experience of ordinary working people, searching out journals and memoirs - but I never read anything like this.
There can't be anything like it.
Your father explores his past on so many levels, from the broadly political to the intensely personal. His non-fratricidal moral stance, which you rightly give prominence to in the presentation of the memoir, puts him up there with Sassoon.
His frankness about sex and bodily matters in general is amazing if all you've come across (in English - of course the Europeans are more broadminded) is the typical memoir or fictionalisation coming from the period. But his account is infused with a 60's and 70's sensibility - he was there, in 1914, but he addresses a posterity that can hear what he couldn't have written then. That distance is one of the miraculous things, and the pair of you have cheated Chronos to produce something great that ought to be recognised and valued."
John Lenton: "Just dropping you a line to say how much i enjoyed reading NOOAI. To read of your father's war time experiences was a privilege. His powers of recall truly astonishing … Important historical events described from the perspective of those directly involved provide invaluable insights about what took place. Your Dad's experiences were nothing sort of incredible. I only wish that he and all the others could have lead more peaceful lives."
Alan White: "The book was a remarkable read: so vivid, so rich in personal memories, so powerful in conveying the horror of combat and the privations of life on the front line. It’s extraordinary to believe that Sam survived Gallipoli, the Somme AND captivity etc. His ability to recall facts and experiences is astonishing.”
Ali Smith: "It really held me from start to finish – and your father is a kind of benchmark of a thoroughly decent and intelligent bloke reflecting on war and sometimes on its pointlessness…"
Helen McMahon (also part-way through at time of writing to Phil): "I continue to be absorbed… We have just retreated from Gallipoli with doubtless worse to come. It's striking that the majority of suffering isn't inflicted by the enemy, but by incompetent and thoughtless "managers" who clearly don't consider footsoldiers to be human. Utterly shocking - and hearing Sam tell it it's as though I had never heard anything of this before. It's a real-time movie that should be more widely known about."
Peter Agius (not far in, but kindly dropped an email anyway): "I have just started to read your excellent 'Nobody of Any Importance' (recently purchased by my wife to add to our extensive WW1 library) and had to write to congratulate you (and your father) on a remarkable memoir"
Kelsey Thornton, of the Ivor Gurney Society http://www.ivorgurney.org.uk/ which celebrates the World War 1 front-line-soldier poet, reviewed my father's Memoir for the Society's 2014 journal (fans call it "The Gurnal"). Here are some edited excerpts of what he wrote:
"The first sentence of the book provides the title: 'May I say straight away he became nobody of any importance'. And that is the importance of this book. It is the voice of those thousands – perhaps millions – of nobodies who volunteered and were pushed through so much suffering in the first world war, many of whom did not live through it. And of those who did return to England, how many were there who simply refused or found themselves unable to speak of it at all?… Sam Sutcliffe (1898-1987) in his seventies finally found himself able, or perhaps even compelled, to speak… There is a quiet ferocity at the stupidity of it all, which comes out not in diatribes against the system but in a continuous resilient determination not to let his humanity and his principles get crushed and blunted. But he has no doubt that the whole thing is a monumental waste and folly, and his son, in editing the book, rightly selected for its epigraph one of the few paragraphs where he comments on it: 'I feel one can say with some conviction that no man should willingly leave his home to fight, wound, maim or kill other men about whom he knows little and whom he certainly does not hate. When all men refuse to commit such follies the foundations of a true civilisation will have only just started to be laid.' He is worth listening to."
Roy Phillips (from Australia): "a fantastic book and great testament to your father."
Margaret Taylor (a self-styled Gallipoli "obsessive"): "Having just finished the book I felt I must write to you to say how much I enjoyed It. Your father obviously had a fantastic memory and a great way with words. I am very interested in the First World War and found it fascinating to read the first hand account of what the "ordinary" soldier went through. Your father's amazing strength of character shines through on every page. You must be very proud of him and of the book you worked so hard to put together."