Not as well known as other books by Barbara Tuchman, the Zimmermann Telegram covers an astounding piece of WWI history. The British codebreakers deserve their recognition, but so do the ingenious methods of the British govt to find a way to release the info without compromising the secrecy of the codebreaking. The obstinacy of President Wilson and his insistence on doing things his way comes into sharp focus. In order to conduct diplomatic negotiations, he allowed the Germans to send messages via the State Dept. Against the council of his own officials, Wilson allowed the Germans to send their messages CODED, never dreaming that they would abuse the privilege. When he found out that the Germans were plotting against the U.S. simultaneously, his anger against them was intractable. The plan sounded crazy: worried that the newly implemented policy of unrestricted u boat warfare might bring the U.S. into the war, the Germans decided to negotiate with Mexico (and Japan) to attack the U.S. in exchange for Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. When the contents of the telegram were released, there was some debate as to whether it was genuine. Instead of denying it and possibly delaying U.S. action with the concern it was a fake, foreign secreatry Zimmermann, the author of the telegram, confirmed its veracity with the justification that it was a proposal in case the U.S. declared war. It is a fascinating story from start to end.
The reign of King Edward VII ("Bertie" to his family) was expected to be a disappointment by most. But he would have not have been shocked by this verdict, it was one he had been hearing for most of his life. A gambler and a philanderer, his bad behavior was not only whispered among the upper class, but also ended up as fodder for the unwashed masses when he ended up in court a few times. His most horrible crime was that he was not the carbon copy of his late father Prince Consort Albert, an offense that Queen Victoria could not forgive.
This is an excellent, thorough book on the life of future King Edward VII. It is also very even-handed on the good and bad aspects of the man himself.
In some ways, it's extraordinary that he did as well as he did. Prince Albert had high expectations for his children, especially Bertie, the heir. He devised a rigorous education for them. His oldest child, the Princess Royal Victoria, excelled while Bertie did not. Of course, this must have been the fault of poor strange Bertie, not the teachers and certainly not Prince Albert's program. In response to this failure, his education became more difficult, not less. and leaving him little free time, not that he would have been allowed to socialize with boys his own age if he did have free time.
As a young man away from home, his male friends introduced him to a "loose woman" who became his mistress. An aghast Prince Albert hurried to confront his son about his behavior. Prince Albert's health declined soon afterwards, leading to his death.
The fractious attitude of widowed Queen Victoria towards Bertie became a constant problem. Heartbroken by the loss of her beloved husband, Queen Victoria always blamed Bertie's dissolute behavior for Albert's death. Her punishment of him was of the most unproductive kind. For years, she forbade him any involvement in governmental affairs even after he expressed an interest, essentially making sure her heir was unprepared for his eventual responsibilities. It also gave him lots of free time to engage in the type of profligate lifestyle that his father had been determined to curtail. Bertie knew his mother was disappointed in his present behavior, but also knew that no penance he could do would have earned her forgiveness and healed the relationship. Queen Victoria even had Bertie and his new wife, beautiful, sweet Alexandra of Denmark spied on by the staff, to try to make sure both followed her directions. Not a perfect husband to Alexandra, he nonetheless backed her over the Queen during the war between her home country of Denmark and Germany (favored by the Queen) and the diplomatic problems that it caused.
Though not officially allowed in governmental affairs, Bertie stepped into the royal role that his reclusive mother refused to fill after Albert's death: the social role. Always impeccably dressed Bertie and Alexandra performed almost all of the public functions as representatives of the royal family. They were a glamorous pair, probably a big contrast to the stiff and stolid Victoria and Albert. Infidelity in an upper class man was still acceptable as long as there was discretion and a devoted wife at the side. Bertie's letters to mistresses are surprisingly mundane - no husband would read these lines and grab a pisol. His unwelcome court appearances were the result of getting dragged into the limelight by the indiscreet misdeeds of others in his circle. He was open-minded for his time: he welcomed successful Jewish financiers into his social circle and he did not discriminate among race (though he opposed women's rights).
His accession to the throne happened late in life. By then, he was aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. His interest in foreign relations, convivial manner and good relationships with the royalty of other contries (many of them relatives) were put to the good use on behalf of England. Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm's forceful, intrusive manner was annoying to the quiet Russian Tzar Nicholas II. King Edward VII told the Tzar that he had no wish to offer unsolicited advice like Wilhem. He had been a help to the young Tzar years earlier at the death of Tzar Alexander II (Alexandra's sister was the Tzarina). He and Alexandra comforted the grieving family, and performed all of the traditional Russian mourning rituals as members of the late Tzar's family (even kissing the lips of the rapidly decaying body), gaining the respect of the Russian public. King Edward VII's personality, his ability to put people at ease, and his shrewdness of the public impact of social behavior were his biggest assets and he made use of them in his reign.
The strength of this book is that it provides all the background facts that you didn't know you needed to know to get a better understanding of WWI. There is so much to cover in WWI that much of these items that don't directly contribute to the action are left out of other books. It's a great loss because these are the same facts that humanize the people and make some of their decisions understandable.
The book starts out with the trigger event- the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But it humanizes the Archduke by talking about the class difference between him and his wife-to-be Sophie and how his marriage choice affected his relationship with his uncle Emperor Franz Joseph. It brings up the Archduke's different attitude (compared to the Emperor) on the Serbian people- they ended up killing someone who was more sympathetic to their ideas.
Background details are provided on the history of the Balkan states, the dual nature of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how it affected decision making, the Serbian government and its involvement (or noninvolvement) in the assassination. It goes into detail on the horrific conditions in trench warfare.
WWI was a tremendous tragedy that seems to have dropped out of the minds of the rest of the world. There are no easy answers about why a regional war turned in to a multiyear ordeal costing lives and causing governments to fall. The book won't give all the answers, but it will provide a better framework about topics that would be unknown to all but the historians.
Only a few hours after arriving into a small Georgia town, Jack Reacher is arrested for a murder that took place the night before. Suddenly, more strange events start happening. Reacher tries to demonstrate that he has no connection to the crime, so that he can head back out on the road, away from this idyllic town. Unfortunately, he does have a connection to the crime and now he's the one who wants answers.
I've read a few other Reacher novels before so I was looking forward to find out how Reacher was introduced in book 1. The book opens with the arrest, so it grabs you right from the beginning. Most of the book was good, although I felt one of the cliffhangers was more obvious than usual. Initially, I was a little disappointed with this characterization of Reacher. He came across as burned out ex-military, anxious to get out of town and away from this puzzling murder that messed up his weekend. He's an former investigator with experience in dealing with murder and violent crime. The local police department has only one detective, an experienced Boston transplant, but it was not equipped to handle the investigation. I'd think that even just to relieve a little boredom, Reacher would be a little curious about the crime. My frustration with the Reacher prototype dissipated when a plot shocker drew me back into the story.
Overall, I did like the story and while it had some rough spots, it also lacked an issue I found in other Reacher books ("Reacher said nothing" phrase repeated over and over).
Alex Dumas was a larger than life man, immortalized in Tom Reiss' brilliant book. It's not hard to see why he was both an asset and a threat to Napoleon. I am a fan of Alexandre Dumas' novels and this book gives me great insight on what drove him to write his stories, especially the Count of Monte Cristo. It's seems so hard to believe that even with the success of the son, the life of his impressive father remained in obscurity.
The lasting effect of his imprisonment is so difficult to take in. He was a vital, imposing man wasted down to a shell due to horrific treatment, all of his heroic actions on the battlefield forgotten and his family forced into poverty.
I was curious about the Anglo-Saxons so I decided to give these lectures a try. When it opened with, Dr Drout reciting a passage in Old English, I was a little startled and afraid I made a horrible mistake. Quite the opposite. The professor transcends the label of "Modern Scholar" into the realm of "Favorite teachers." He clearly loves the Anglo-Saxon writings and the period and all of his excitement about the subject is infectious. This is one of my favorite audiobooks (I never imagined it would be) and I've gotten more of his lectures as well. He doesn't approach the subject as a traditional historian, he is a literature professor. He doesn't skimp on the history, he just places most of his focus on the writings of the time. As a veteran teacher, he has his own bag of tricks to help clarify topics and improve memorization of important time periods.
An incomprehensible series of murders, engineered by Angel of Death Dr. Josef Mengele, are underway. Nothing about the victims would make them targets of the Nazis. Renowned Nazi hunter Yakov Liebermann- who is underfunded, understaffed, and possibly facing eviction from his office quarters due to the sheer weight of his files affecting the floor- doesn't believe this crazy story...at first. Then as the deaths start occurring, he struggles with not only putting the pieces together but with trying to get anyone else to believe.
I loved this book when I first read it years ago that I had to get it when I saw it was on Audible. Simon Vance is my favorite narrator, he always does a phenomenal job.
The only reason why I gave it four stars has nothing at all to do with the quality of the story. It's an excellent thriller. This book was written in the 1970s and some of the things in the story would be mindblowing to people reading it at that time. I don't think today's reading audience will have that type of visceral reaction.
After reading the book summary of four sisters becoming queens of different countries, I imagined four extraordinary women, overcoming adversity, and against all odds, bringing
peace throughout the land (I wasn't a history major).
I bought this book after reading the author's "The Lady Queen" which I liked a great deal. This is a pretty good book- but the storylines of the sisters are quite separate most of the time. And when they do intersect, it's not always a happy family experience, but more in the line of trying to stop a scheming brother-in-law. There's no murder, incest, or insanity. Although, it takes place in the 13th century, the author conveys the personalities and the actions in such a way that it is relatable to the kinds of problems we deal with today. You have an overbearing mother-in-law that her kind son won't stand up to, your three older sisters publically snub you because they're more successful (they're queens, you're not), your husband isn't as smart or successful as his younger brother (even though your husband's the king) so you keep having to bribe the brother for his help to get anything done, etc. are just some of the issues that the sisters face. It's all very human.
I became very interested in Eleanor, the queen of England. She initially seems to have hit the marital jackpot. She had an arranged marriage (at, I think, 12) to an older man, but he turns out to be a devoted, loving husband, interested in the same things as her. One small problem: he's not that good at his job (as king). So she assists him. With her intelligence and initiative, this sounds like a perfect remedy. But she ends up becomes one of the most hated women in England for bringing in her foreign family members to help out.. and get well compensated for their trouble.
Probably one of the most interesting unanswered question for me from the book is why no one seems to like Beatrice. In the book, the animosity towards her is chalked up to inheritance issues. But that still doesn't explain why all three of the sisters (and I think the mother as well) don't care for her. Her husband, while a good husband to her, doesn't keep his word and is only out to enrich himself. But while he definitely contributes to the dislike, I have a feeling that their must have been some incident, lost to history, that led to the problem.
While a nonroyal group of sisters becoming Four Queens is an extraordinary situation that does capture attention, the reality of it is mainly a book of four different queens.
Chances are you know someone like JEN. She's on top of the world and savoring all the perks that come with it. She doesn't mind rubbing her success (and her designer handbag) in your face. Even though her own life is great, don't think she won't scream at the barista for not retrieving her latte fast enough. JEN is more important than you and it's time that you realize it.
Until she's not. Here comes sweet revenge. It's hard not to enjoy JEN's inevitable slide from bad to worse to as she tries to hang on to the smallest trappings of her old life while everything goes wrong. And then a strange thing happens. You kind of root for her. She is a survivor and manages to pull herself up from the very bottom. Like a parasitic worm, JEN has burrowed into your skin with her sharp stinging barbs which are actually quite funny (when not directed at you). You can tolerate her and even like those comments that are far from political correctness that you would never say out loud.
While her Grinch heart has not grown 2 sizes, she's no longer that toxic bitch you avoided in the restroom.
Until she is again(???)
Jen is very funny and while I don't agree with her point of view on many (or any) things, she puts her experiences and her voice out there, even if it means ridicule for the actions of JEN before the fall. You can feel her personality strongly in her writing. Narrator Jamie Heinlein does an excellent job channeling Jen and making you feel like she's right there with you.
It's hard to describe the events in Julia's book without wanting to close the shades and crawl under the covers into the fetal position. Julia finds humor and grace in even the most dire situation. She puts all her frustration and grief forward in such a way that makes you want to simultaneously laugh and cry. All the foibles of her family members pale compared to their strength in dealing with the illness and death of her beloved brother Mike. Her own stress reaction is her itching desire to get out of the house away from her relatives, smoke, and buy the Pope's new book. Even this little task goes awry in the most hilarious of ways. Her own health becomes an issue when she is diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer- so rare that even getting her slides away from the research lab is a chore. An enjoyable chore, when she meets the scientist working on her form of cancer. This is a great audiobook for anyone dealing with a difficult situation, but this is also full of enough heartwarming laughs for anyone at all.
While David may seem to have a fairly good life- he is a professor at Columbia and well-respected in his field, he has a close relationship with his pre-teen daughter, he is good friends with a female colleague- his already rocky marriage suddenly hits a new low. He then is susceptible to an intriguing offer from a mysterious source, an unknown woman who shows up at his office. In exchange for a few hours work, he and his family get a free trip to Venice and deluxe accommodations. Even though the woman provides only cryptic details and states that he was chosen for his expertise as a "demonologist"- a categorization David disputes (he is a scholar of John Milton's Paradise Lost), he hops on a plane with his daughter to Venice. Unfortunately, his few hours of time turns out to be much worse than a timeshare presentation (I've heard the "free deluxe accommodations in exchange for a few hours of your time" pitch before). No one that he cares about will remain unaffected. David initially comes across as an everyman- dealing with both success and failure, balancing home and work. Unbeknownst to him, his daughter has been enduring repeated disturbing dreams, dreams connected to this mysterious errand. Who really is the expert? He may possess facts and scholarly interpretation, but she seems to have a more intrinsic connection. Based on the phenomenon he witnessed, this connection to his daughter is terrifying. His own secrets are not spared. Tragedy in his family while he was growing up also is unearthed. Nothing and no one is safe as the story ends up being a race against time. Make no mistake, this is a thriller and horror novel so read at your own risk. It kept me engrossed until the end.
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