Top critical review
Complete, but not compelling
December 26, 2018
The author received a Pulitzer Prize for this book. And I have the gall to only give it 3 stars (out of 5)??? Perhaps I am just a deeply-disturbed individual. Anyway …
The book’s begins with the formation of political alignments that ultimately resulted in multiple countries all going to war at nearly the same instant of time. But the book’s purpose is to cover the first month of WW I fighting (which essentially set the groundwork for the type of fighting that would grind on for the remaining 4 years of conflict). The book kept illustrating that, in war, timing is critical. The German plan was for a short war. Attack and conquer France (before Russian forces can even get into position to attack eastern Germany) by luring the French forces eastward while German forces circle around them through Belgium and envelop them from the west. But Belgium resistance slowed the envelopment. And Russian forces were deployed against Germany more rapidly than expected. All seemed well explained: the plans, the delays, the strategies, the personalities, the relationships between events. (And I think Parisians are lucky they don’t speak German now.)
So there was lots of good information – and that information was placed in context with the other concurring events. But this history seemed especially focused on getting all the names and places called out as events unfolded. Such precision, though perhaps expected, resulted in a “dry” (rather than compelling) read.
One annoyance: The author occasionally included French phrases, but without translation. As I don’t know French, those phrases did nothing for me.
The book had several maps. That’s usually a big plus for me, but they just didn’t display well on a Kindle.
Bottom line: Appeared to be very complete coverage of the first month of WW I fighting, but the presentation didn’t do enough to engage the reader.