struggled with it. expected more because of the Pulitzer. I have wanted to read this book for a long time, maybe I'm missing something but my interest just couldn't be maintained.
While the reader did an admirable job, this was not an enjoyable audiobook for me. it was highly tactical with descriptions of organizations, chains of command, and troop movements. It's a book you would want to accompany with a map, a list of names and their roles, and a reference. It seems more a textbook account than a narrative which for my liking is better suited for print.
That being said, The Guns of August provides an exceptional account and immense detail into the lead into and first 30 days of WWI
Seemingly painstaking research and careful examination of historical documents imparts to the listener the reasons for the start of this yet-another move by Germany to expand its territory. Mistakes made by the Germans during this month of August laid the ground for the prolonged battles that became known as World War I and paved the path to World War II.
To me the narration by Nadia May would be ever so much more acceptable had she not intoned accented English for quotations of German, French, Russian, and Belgian speakers. And any other non-English speaker from any country I may have omitted. I cringed with embarrassment and great discomfort during passages of so-called translated speech. There are numerous sections which sound as though Marlene Dietrich is speaking them while portraying some of her movie characters. With this in mind, the affectations in reading the quotations might conjure the pleasure of Dietrich and the old movie palaces were the words not such brutal, dismal, and forboding material.
Ms. Tuchman's insights, scholarship, and incisive turns of phrase are perfectly (PERFECTLY) matched and complemented with Ms. May's energetic and engaging narration. The text is alive with the writer's interpretive skills (and wit), and it is put on vivid display with the narrator's profound gifts (and enthusiasm).
Since listening to this book, I have either bought or plan to buy every one of their "team-ups" and most things they've done separately.
war itself. but insofar as how the mother scratching thing got started in the first place....this is THE book
Barbara Tuchman’s favorite military philosopher, here at least, is Clausewitz. Through that Germanic perspective, she wants us to see the battles of the early months of World War I, the ones that led to the awful trench-war stalemate of All’s Quiet on the Western Front and the despairing backdrop of Hemingway’s work, as a game of chess. To that end, she resurrects all sorts of individuals responsible for the strategies and counter-strategies. We open with a roster of the kings of Europe, and throughout we get skillful, capsule biographies of one commander after another, someone whose quirk of personality contributed to the failure or success of his country’s troops. She imagines, in other words, the minds purportedly responsible for driving the outcome of the war.
Leo Tolstoy’s favorite commander, at least in War and Peace, is Kutuzov, the aging general who blunts Napoleon’s march into Russia. As Tolstoy paints him, Kutuzov understands that planning can go only so far in battle. After that, you have to trust to a kind of spirit of the moment; you have to understand that war is not chess but rather a conflict of passions and preparations. Some select few may set events in motion, but war is ultimately an experience larger than any particular minds.
Tuchman’s history is a history of would-be chess master generals, of men who live up to their training and conceptualization or men who fall short of theirs. It’s a striking history at times – it answers why one battle went one way and another the opposite – but it’s rarely compelling. She never looks to larger matters of warfare, to the enduring question of what makes an ordinary man carry a rifle into conflict with other men. She takes the “rules of war” as a given, and shows us how they play out.
In the end, this becomes a succession of more of the same. As skillfully as she can turn a phrase, as concisely as she can boil down a clever sketch of someone or other, each battle begins to echo the last. One side wins on a front to put the other on its heels. The Germans move forward only to get bogged down.
As I read this, I can’t help missing the grander vision of, say Michael Shaara in The Killer Angels, a writer who gets something of the Kutuzov understanding of war, or the larger human experience and tragedy of real conflict. In that much more gripping history, we see the stakes of the battle, and we’re called on to understand both the human character of each commander’s decisions as well as the human toll each loss entails. Shaara’s is a story told at a human eye-level that, piling scene upon scene, becomes epic.
Tuchman’s, disappointingly, is an effort to show the technical aspects of an epic struggle that, excellent prose aside, never touches the deeper tragedy of its horrific topic.
I cannot imagine finding a more complete history of the begenning of the First World War. Barbara Tuchman brings to people, places, and events to life.