The book ranged from "wow, I didn't know that", to blah, blah. You'll learn a lot about the formation of the countries Europem, Asia Minor, and Africa. You get insight into the "ancient" hostilities that lead to WWII, war between the Serbs and Croats, hostility between the Greeks and Turks, and more. I would rate it higher, but despite all the good things about the book, toward the end I was really ready for it to be over.
To understand our current world, we must understand our collective past. This is a "must listen" audio book!
And share what you learn.
The books seems to lack a theme or hypothesis that ties it together; she is very fond of the amusing anecdote or pithy quote, but it doesn't quite add up, and because of the lack of a unifying theme is quite hard to remember the details
Yes, her subjects are great
Reader has a lovely clear voice, but it has a slightly affected quality, with its hyper-diction, that begins to wear, and doesn't seem quite right for the subject. I'd love to hear her read, say, Edith Wharton
This is an excellent history of the conference that produced the Treaty of Versailles, concluding what was then called the Great War. MacMillan's mastery of the details is impressive, and she weaves a fascinating tale. Of particular interest to the contemporary reader is the way she demonstrates how the high handed treatment by the Great Powers (Britain, France and the United States) of people in Africa, Asia and especially the Middle East has consequences we still face today. She also does an excellent job of dispelling many of the popular myths about the Treaty, especially that it made World War II inevitable: as she rightly points out in her Conclusion, although the Treaty itself had many failings - and proved to be an excellent propaganda tool for Hitler - WW II was the result of actions taken (and not taken) by nations and governments in the twenty years between 1919 and 1939.
Semi retired small business person/ college professor/ investor.
Depends on the friend. This is not a book for the average reader.
If you are not at least a little bit of a history nut this is not the book for you. It is an exhaustive history, (I mean that in both meanings of the word). I suspect that no matter how much history you know you will learn something new in reading this. That said this is not a book for the beginner, a reasonable knowledge of per WWI European geography is necessary to follow the discussions of what lands went to whom.
One final note it is important to understand the the word "liberal" did not have the same meaning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as it does today. At that point in time a liberal was one who believed in less government power and more individual rights and freedoms. The meaning is closer to what is considered libertarianism today.
I like the book. I've already read it. I was hoping to enjoy listening to it.
The narrator had an officious edge - a snarky, know it all edge - that I just couldn't get past. Less than an hour into the narrative I had to give up. Nadia May is a great narrator. This narrator needs to maybe change to fiction.
An amazing narrative, well presented & laid out logically to help decipher the myriad of details.... with a good storyline of the leaders interaction / dynamics interwoven. Strongly recommend!
I am a bilingual high school teacher. I mostly read non-fiction, especially history, but I am also a sucker for science-fiction and fantasy novels.
This was quite a marathon listen, even for me - and I regularly listen to long, dense non fiction and enjoy it. It wasn't so much the length but rather the degree of detail that made it seem like such a long book - it really went over every little bit of the peace conference. I appreciated this, since I bought it to learn about the conference, after all, but it was excruciating at times. It covers not only the peace treaties with Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria, but also the formation of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Iraq, Armenia, Turkey, Syria, and Palestine (it covers border disputes in detail, so pulling up a map is really helpful if you do not have detailed maps of Europe and the Middle East memorized). It covers the Chinese-Japanese conflict in China, the origins of the dispute between Zionist Jews and Arab nationalists in Palestine, and the Russian civil war. It also gives a great deal of insight into the personalities of not just the biggest players, but also less well-known people like the leaders of British Empire dominions (like Canada and Australia - something this Canadian really appreciated), the leaders of defeated countries, nationalist leaders like Ataturk, and delegates from minor players like Greece and Romania. I feel like I know so much more than before I started that even now, less than a week after finishing the book, I'm having trouble straightening out all the details in my head. It's one of those books you need to listen to three times to really get everything, and not always in a good way.
Because it covered everything, it could be difficult to keep track of at times because of all the events that you need to remember over the course of the book. This problem, which is mostly inevitable with historical non fiction that focuses on such a short time period, was made worse by the author's decision to divide the book by issue covered at the conference rather than telling it as a more coherent narrative. I understand that this was done because telling it day-by-day would have been even worse (they were dealing with multiple issues every day), but there should have been some sort of compromise between those two extremes. It had some, though not enough, references to events going on at the same time to help you piece together the context of the timing, but overall it was often confusing, especially since a reference might be to something you haven't listened to yet because it's discussed in a later section. If the format had been at least a little chronological (maybe by month first and then by issues covered that month?), it would have been a lot easier to appreciate the good qualities of the book.
I have listened to several audiobooks about this time period and therefore was familiar with some of the people and a lot of the preceding events (like the armistice agreement and the abdication of the Kaiser), but even with background knowledge this book was at times totally overwhelming. It made a lot of assumptions about what you already knew as a reader and it required very close attention in order to keep track of everything. It's too bad that the book would be inaccessible to someone who doesn't know much about this time period, because the consequences of the peace conference were at times surprising, enlightening, and fascinating and I'm sure a lot of people would find them interesting in a more accessible format. There were a lot of times where I said out loud, alone in the car, "What?! I didn't know that!" - it gave me a new perspective on a lot of things, both historical and modern. There was a lot of good material in there, once you got over the hurdles of too much tiny detail and not enough context for non-enthusiasts.
One other strange thing about the book was the ending. After having been neutral and factual throughout the book, the end was all about the author's point of view that the Versailles Treaty should not be blamed for the Second World War like it often is by historians. This was an interesting point of view that was well-supported by facts I didn't know beforehand, but it felt sort of out of place when the focus of the book was not exclusively - not even primarily - the German treaty.
The narration was good. It was easy to follow and mostly not monotonous, which was good because you needed to stay engaged in the book constantly in order to follow it.
Overall, I would say I expanded my knowledge of this time period and its effects on the present day, but I sort of felt like I was listening to a professor give a lecture series where I was expected to take notes and do more research on my own time. This isn't a book for people who are looking for a first foray into learning about this time period (you need to already know a reasonable amount about the First World War, and to some extent the Second World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Cold War, to fully understand it) - it is definitely not light reading. If you are interested in the subject already, as I am, it's worth listening to - I'm glad I did in spite of the book's flaws. But it takes some concentration and dedication to finishing it to do so because of the jumping around in time and the huge cast of characters. This book was so informative and detailed that it was more like taking a course than reading a history book intended for public consumption - it is not for everyone. For me, it was a four-star book - worth reading in spite of its organizational issues - but I wouldn't recommend it to very many people I know all the same.
Probably can't get a clearer description of what went on with this free-for-all involving so many countries.
I'm fairly new to audiobooks, this is by far the most serious book I've ordered. I work alone much of the time, so that's a great time to listen to a detailed reading. I've actually only listened to about a third of the book, which is so far 8 hours' worth, but wanted to post a review to say how much I like it. I imagine that I'll listen to it in the future, too.
What's so interesting about the book is how the decisions made at the Paris conference laid the groundwork for future controversies and wars, from World War II to the Balkan conflicts. The book does require really paying attention, but it pays off -- this is a detailed and well laid out history book, but it helps if you have some knowledge about the events surrounding World War I.
I'm impressed by Suzanne Toren's narration, she's excellent, and I didn't get tired of her voice. I think this could be a difficult book to read aloud, it's a very complex story, and she handles it so well. She performs with just the right amount of acting to dramatize the voices of many key world leaders, and this aspect probably wouldn't come through so well if one were actually reading the book as opposed to listening to it.
No, it's very long, but I am currently reading books about the same time period, so it fits in well. I'm very glad I've got time to listen to it.