The Saturday Review of Literature, New York. Edited by Henry Seidel Canby. Vol. VI, No. 24. Saturday, January 4th, 1930. Page 523.
All Else Is Folly by Peregrine Acland. Coward-McCann. 1929. $2.50
Stephen Graham’s judgments are generally impeccable. In “A private in the Guards,” a war chronicle of distinguished honesty, Mr. Graham praises the unparallelled [sic] bravery of the Canadians he saw in action in France. Major Acland, a Field Officer of the Canadian Infantry during the war, has very good reason to amend this pretty picture of feckless courage. In explaining his own bravery to an inquisitive friend, the protagonist of this novel says: “I was decorated because I was afraid to run away. I was promoted because I lacked the courage to get killed.”
Bravery, whatever its metaphysic, is still bravery! And Alexander Falcon, the central character of “All Else Is Folly” is a hero in spite of his daily fits of self-abasement. A Canadian by birth, Falcon was enjoying a season of cowpunching in Whoopee (sic!), [ed.note –this appears in review] Southern Alberta when the war broke out. He returned home to enlist, kiss his best girl, and leave for France.
The remaining chapters of “All Else Is Folly” are devoted largely to Falcon’s experiences at the front and the incidental music of leave-taking debaucheries. Here the Major’s visual-mindedness is at its best. We are then hurled back into the cloacal arena of bodies rancid with sweat and fear. Mostly fear. In clear, crisp, hard-hitting prose the author rehabilitates a thunderous scene, memorably bloody.
Especially vivid is the author’s description of Falcon, his skull crushed, stuffed with morphine and the maze of discordant images that the “dope” provoked, dragging his heft of broken body across no-man’s-land. He lived to tell the tale. But something had gone out of him. Falcon queries with cosmic elegance: “Does man fight only because he hasn’t yet learned to love?”