The book wasn't what I expected. First of all, I am an amateur military historian and thought I would hear more about the strategy and tactics of the major battles. Instead there was a brief telling of the battles, winners and losers, and on to the next campaign. There was far too much political discussions and complex description of alliances rather than the nuts and bolts of the battles. The British reader with his heavy accent and rapid pace did little to make me feel I knew more about this conflict than I did before I rented the book.
Wow! This book was so good, I listened to it twice! It did make me want to hear the un-abridged version, however. One of the criticisms of the book is that the reader must have a foundational knowledge of the era to understand it best. I would add a foundational knowledge of European geography as well. Excellent book, and highly recommended for anybody who wants to polish their understanding of The Great War, or wants to expand their knowledge base.
Certainly well written. The abridged version isn't as good as the unabridged but compelling nonetheless. Read or listen to this book in conjunction with Keegan's Illustrated World War I book - the pictures are incredible and the maps very helpful to understanding the flow of action over the 4 years. The illustrated book came out 3 years after the original text & includes many pictures not previously published. Amazing what humans will do to each other.
I really wanted to like this book. But unfortunately, I think this must be a very poor abridgement. I had alot of trouble following what turned out to be one battle description after another -- with very little cultural, political, or historical context provided. In addition, the narrator's voice was so soothing, it tended to make me zone out. I think this is a book that needs to be read, not listened to.
I learned a lot, but it was boring. Really boring! Reminded me of a bad college history book.
Keegan does a good job capturing the spirt, horror, the waste and the ultimate futility that was World War One in this book. The first CD is basically the pre-war diplomatic efforts, and he presents an excellent account of both how and why those efforts broke down. The middle section of CD's is about the war it's self, told mostly from the Allied point of view, from the early battles, into trench warfare, to the end of the horse cavalry, the introduction of air power, the effects of modern rapid fire artillery and magazine fed rifles, and he explained how badly the general staffs of all armies adapted to the new realities of poison gas and the machine gun. The book also covers the aftermath of the war, and overall does a good job of enplaning a complicated subject clearly. As with any military audiobook, it is best to have a set of maps to reference so that you can best understand the geography of the region, and force alignments. A good listen, well read.
II just returned these Cds. This book was far beyond my ken. I should have ordered WW 1 - for Dummies. However I did listen to all discs to try to get as much as I could out the book but you better have a good foundation about this period of history to get a good understanding.
Another great book by Keegan. The author provides lots of detail, and he truly has a feel for the humanity of his topic. His accounts of the physical events are superb: descriptive without being gratuitous, while his examination of the political events before, during, and after the war are the best I've ever encountered. Get a map, though, especially for the portion of the book where he describes the sweeping troop movements at the outset of the war. The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is that it's very hard to follow the geography while driving. Of course that wouldn't be a problem with the printed version, so my real criticism is that a work this complex doesn't lend itself to this format.
There are too many gaps between tracks on this recording and the volume fluctuates too much from one sentence to the next. Part of this is due to the reader. I don't feel the abridgement was very good. Nonetheless, the book as it is presented is good. At times this I wanted to consult a map to make sense of all the geograhy.
The author placed a ton of information in this book. It delves into the atmosphere in Europe prior to the war breaking out; similiarities between WWI and WWII; how WWII was actually a continuation of WWI; questions how such a war could start while Europe's cultural achievements were peaking and compares the characteristics of the generals involved. But personally I wish I had a map because at times it was just to difficult to picture where all the events were taking place. In fact it was almost rated a 2 just for that reason, but I assume the book had maps.
About the Author:
John Keegan is and internationally renowned journalist and historian. His books include The Face of Battle and The Mask of Command.