Following my reading of Above the Dreamless Dead I decided that I wanted to read more about World War I. I studied the war relatively well in my undergraduate career, but my focus had always been about the long and short term causes and effects, the more social history view. I knew very little about the battles of the war outside the concept of trench warfare, generally speaking. A good place to start seemed Barbara Tuchman’s 1963 Pulitzer prize winning The Guns of August which focused specifically on the causes of the war, and its first 40 or so days of fighting before the trench warfare that lasted the next four years began.
I had been impressed with Barbara Tuchman’s writing when I read The Proud Tower a few years ago. In this work Tuchman wrote this incredibly detailed account of the first month of WWI – and the detail is staggering, so much so that at times it could be somewhat overwhelming. Tuchman highlights the politics, personalities, military strategy, and philosophical motivations, of all parties involved. In some ways reading the work is like taking a college course on the topic. That much information is covered, and in that level of detail.
Generally I enjoyed the book, and I feel as though I have a better grasp of the beginnings of the war and the initial war effort and find myself remembering things I already knew (Plan 17 and the Schlieffen Plan, for example). However, in some regards the age of the work shows. In some ways there is a lot of national stereotyping, which we are still guilty of 50 years later. There is also an interesting effect of listening to someone come to terms with the long term effects of the war while still being in the cold war era which carried the stamp of the previous conflicts so evidently.
I’m only ranking this book three stars, and that’s more about the audio version I listened to. While I enjoyed the narrator, I cannot suggest that most people listen to this work. If you have meant to read it then I suggest you absolutely do, but maybe take the hardcopy version and take your time. Listening to this one did not have quite the same effect as listening to one of my college professors’ lecture, and that was definitely a letdown for me and the reason I chose to go audiobook format.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.