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Customer Review

425 of 442 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WW1 comes alive with all its blunders and madness!, February 9, 2003
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This review is from: The Guns of August (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) (Paperback)
Written in 1962, this is a fascinating history of the beginnings of WW1 and is the result of a vast amount of research. It's all true, and all documented, and even though it's a dense read, the huge cast of characters springs to life. This is the story of a war that changed the course of history. And it's also a story of the men who make the war. The reader gets to see the blunders and the madness and the personal feuds. And the humanity of the imperfect human beings who make the decisions that result in slaughter.
There are maps in the book describing the battles. There are also photographs. But I must admit that I barely looked at the maps. And I found all the photos of the elderly generals very similar. What I did love though was the sweep of the story as well as the many details that go into waging a war. Previously, most war books I've read had to do with the experience of the soldiers. But this book is about the experience of making decisions, often based on folly. And it opened my eyes to how vulnerable the ordinary person is to the whims of the generals and the forces of pure chance. Ms. Tuchman also had a sense of irony and humor and sometimes I found myself laughing out loud.
The narrative of the month of August 1914 is described hour by hour. Belgium has to make a decision to accept an awful defeat or willingly allow the Germans to march through their neutral territory. There are alliances in place that are just waiting to be broken. The Russians come into the war. So do the British, even though it is with much reluctance. The basic war is between France and Germany, almost a continuation of the defeat the French suffered at the hands of the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
Before I read this book, I didn't know much about WW1. Now I do. It was a war that defined the breakdown of the European nobility and set the stage for the next war, which was even more horrific. It taught me a lot, especially about how many people wind up dying because of the quest for power. It saddened me too because this quest for power is basic. So is the folly of mankind. The only thing that has changed is technology.
This book is a masterful work. It lays the groundwork for an understanding of the mechanics of war. I might not remember all of the names of the generals or the battle plans. But I will always remember the feeling of being right there, watching the decisions being made, marching for miles in spite of fatigue, handling the big guns, making courageous decisions that sometimes led to disaster. And, especially, knowing that this is the true face of war. Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2007 10:15:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2007 10:16:08 PM PDT
If you do not look at the maps, you have not studied the war. The photographs are also filled with good information about the condition of the people in the picture (thin, fat...), the condition of equipment (clothing ragged, weapons old or beat up...) the weather and its effects on roads and defensive positions etc. Do yourself a favor, look VERY closely at the maps, (The US Military academies have excellent maps on line, and this includes maps of ww I and ww II) and the photos, although the photos are less important.
AD2

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2011 3:38:02 PM PST
Linda Linguvic had a great review. There is no need to disparage her, and in such a mean-spirited, self-righteous, supercilious manner...there is no excuse. Perhaps you are not a native speaker of American English: "do yourself a favor" is a sarcastic phrase intended to put one person down in order to bring the speaker up. It is childish. And claiming that Linda has not studied the war...you are out of line. Alan Dale Daniel, YOU need to do yourself a favor and go back to Kindergarten and learn how to respect those who are your superiors--in this case, your intellectual superior.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2011 3:48:19 PM PST
Thank you so much for replying to the previous comment. I try hard to do the best reviews I can and hope that my efforts are appreciated. You made my day Charles. Thank you again.

Posted on Aug 11, 2011 6:14:16 PM PDT
PJM says:
Woah. I think you need to take a step back here, Charles. I didn't find Alan's comments to be the least bit disparaging or condescending. I'm not certain how you managed to come away with that impression. Seems to me that Alan simply wanted to underscore the benefit of carefully reviewing the photographs, maps and illustrations provided in the book. It wasn't an attack on Linda (whose review I found excellent, by the way). "Do yourself a favor" is most certainly not a sarcastic statement intended to demean the recipient. At least not in this context. If I told you, "do yourself a favor - go try the new restaurant in town", would you take offense?

Posted on Dec 3, 2011 6:36:50 PM PST
Based on this review, I will buy and read this book. I also will look at the maps and photographs, however they will not mean as much to me as the hour to hour drama of the decision making. The "you are here" aspect of the book is what I look forward to.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2012 3:11:10 PM PST
ArtB says:
i have to agree with Patrick here, I also didn't take Alan's comments as negative at all. Either way, this was an excellent review, Linda. I have just started reading this book and now am even more excited about it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2012 1:06:19 AM PDT
MISTER SJEM says:
Alan's reply seemed negative to me.

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2012 2:25:08 AM PDT
Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. I thank you all for your comments.

Posted on Feb 27, 2013 2:29:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 27, 2013 2:33:48 PM PST
Another extremely well-written and insightful account of the opening of the Great War as well as subsequent major commanders and events is THE SWORD-BEARERS: STUDIES IN SUPREME COMMAND IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR by Correlli Barnett. Barnett is also very good on the social and industrial strengths and limitations of the key belligerents.

Posted on May 22, 2013 9:55:47 AM PDT
An excellent companion volume that considers the great commanders of the war as well as the cultural and industrial matrix of the combatants is The Sword-Bearers, Correlli Barnett (Author).
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