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The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme Hardcover – November 4, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* What photos exist of WWI tend to be claustrophobic and grainy, which makes Sacco’s epic panorama feel all the more revelatory. Illustrated across a single, wordless 24-foot-long accordion-fold page, Sacco details—and detail is the right word—the situation on July 1, 1916, as British troops meet the Germans at the Battle of the Somme in France. Paged through like a book, it breaks into 12 double-page spreads of astonishingly deep focus, as we follow, from a three-quarter overhead angle, the progression of British forces rightward (that is, eastward), from horseback generals and their comfortable châteaus to chow lines bothered by just a hint of distant frontline smoke; from the labyrinth of trenches to the vortex of shell explosions and the resultant gore; and, at last, from the medic station, featuring new trenches—graves—to the ominous sight of incoming reinforcements. Unfurled, this condensed picture of the western front is one of staggering grandeur and inescapable doom: those lean-faced soldiers at the far left have no idea of the meat grinder that awaits. A separate 16-page booklet provides invaluable annotations as well as Hochschild’s fine essay on this disastrous day of battle. Though the format is a bit treacherous for library collections, this is on par with Jacques Tardi’s unforgettable graphic works It Was the War of the Trenches (2010) and Goddamn This War! (2013). --Daniel Kraus

From Bookforum

A single continuous panorama, eight inches tall and twenty-four feet long, Joe Sacco's The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme illustrates, in minutely detailed black-and-white drawings, events just before and during a summer day when the British army suffered more than fifty-seven thousand dead and wounded, its greatest single-day loss. A journalist known for comic books on contemporary conflict, such as Safe Area Goražde, about the 1990s Bosnian war, Sacco conveys an eloquent, convincing, entirely wordless story. —Christopher Lyon
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 54 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (November 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393088804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393088809
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an intellectual investment that should be savored and valued as an heirloom to be passed on to future generations.

The format is unique. The art is stunning. The scope is amazing. And the lesson is timeless. Combined with Adam Hochschild's essay on the significance of the Battle of the Somme (which was adapted from his incredible book, To End All Wars), Sacco's vision can be studied for hours.

One of the most impressive works of history I have ever had the honor to experience.
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Format: Hardcover
Trench warfare in WWI was really horrific. The senseless waste of life to gain a single yard of useless mud was insane. During The Somme, there were about one million casualties on both sides. The gain? About six miles, or what you could walk in a pleasant afternoon.

But, still, ah Joe Sacco's wonderful pull out illustrations! These are as glorious as the battle was horrible. Truly awesome, and have to be seen to be believed. Take a look at the expanded view above, and understand that does not do justice to the real thing by even a little.

This is a must for any student or even scholar of The Great War, or those who enjoy such great illustrative work.

Amazing!
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Joe Sacco is a journalist and comic book artist. Born in Malta, he is now a citizen of the U.S. living in Portland, Oregon. He has gained a reputation for reporting on some of the world’s top hot spots in the manner of a comic book style. He has written books on the Bosnian War, the Gulf war and the Palestinian situation. This book, which I received a couple of weeks ago, is somewhat of a departure from his previous subjects. It is a continuous drawing of the battle as it develops from the evening of June 30th to the evening of July 1st, folded concertina style into 24 plates (or pages). Beginning with Haig leaving church that evening it then shows in the minutest detail how the preparations for the battle unfold. The initial bombardment by heavy guns, thousands of troops moving into position with horses, men, wagons and piles of munitions are all meticulously portrayed in line drawings. Night falls and leads to dawn as men take up their positions and prepare for the assault. When they start going over the top, Sacco correctly portrays the men with arms at the port as they expected little resistance. There then follow several pages of the battle … shells bursting … the men struggling to advance … falling, dying … dead. It ends with the return, the roll calls, advanced dressing stations and burial.

His research of the subject was extensive. Having spent fifteen years in Australia before he moved to the States in 1978, he became fascinated by the Great War, especially of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles and it apparently never left him. He has amassed a large library on the war and he states in the forward that his inspiration for the work was influenced by the authors Martin Middlebrook and Lynn MacDonald among others.

This is a fascinating work.
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Stunning and powerful piece of work. Graphic history and worth every penny---if you are at all interested in WWI or graphic novels, this is for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mesmerizing panorama of the first day of the battle of the Somme. The commentary was helpful. I fully intend to take my lighted large magnifying glass and go over each page in detail - fantastic drawings.
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Such an impressive work of art. My only reservation is that i would like it to have been twice the size but then i would never have been able to pull the whole thing out inside my house. Joe Sacco brings humanity to the fore in our remembrance of one awful day in world war one. The more you look at this work, the more time you give it the more you are given by it. A truly remarkable book.
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I looked through this book and read about it on Amazon and in the New York Times before giving it to my husband for Christmas. It's a chronicle of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, at the start of World War I, told through a continuous drawing which unfolds-- literally- to a length of 24 feet. What an idea! It's an unforgettable and indelible read, whose imagery fixes itself in memory.
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Format: Hardcover
Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme isn’t a comic per se - it’s a staggering 24 foot long wordless panorama depicting the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Folded numerous times to fit into book format, it can be “read” like a book and looks a bit like an accordion in profile. It shows in jaw-dropping detail countless soldiers from the first page of a troubled General Douglas Haig well behind the lines to the gravediggers and dead bodies on the last.

The Battle of the Somme remains one of the worst battles in human history with over a million dead between July and November 1916. Sacco shows the first day from the Allied perspective which saw a staggering total of 57,000 British soldiers dead or wounded by day’s end, making it the worst loss in British military history. In comparison, the Germans lost an estimated 8,000.

How could such a catastrophe occur? Ineffective bombing. After a week of Allied bombing, the British expected to go in with their 120,000 troops and storm through the lines but, as soon as they entered no man’s land, they realised how much the bombs had missed the Germans’ lines when they saw line after line of barbed wire and machine gun nests intact.

In the style of the Bayeux tapestry 1000 years ago which depicted the Battle of Hastings, Sacco’s panoramic view of the battle takes in everything from the soldiers on their way to the front, arriving and eating breakfast, getting prepared and heading into the trenches, to the distant bombings getting closer, to the trenches themselves, and the beginnings of the attack which sees explosions and bullets tearing apart soldiers in the most horrific ways.
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