The First World War is one of history’s greatest tragedies. In this remarkable and intimate account, author G. J. Meyer draws on exhaustive research to bring to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed 20 million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.
World War I is unique in the number of questions about it that remain unsettled. After more than 90 years, scholars remain divided on these questions, and it seems likely that they always will. A World Undone does not claim to have all the answers - if answers are even possible. However, it will provide listeners with enough information to understand why the questions persist, and perhaps in some cases, to arrive at conclusions of their own. A World Undone is a grand, tragic story brilliantly told.
About the author: G. J. Meyer is a professional writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Harper’s, and many other publications. While working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship by Harvard University. He is the author of the New York Times best seller The Tudors, the Edgar Award-winning The Memphis Murders, and other works.
©2006 G. J. Meyer (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A World Undone is an original and very readable account of one of the most significant and often misunderstood events of the last century. With a historian’s eye for clearheaded analysis and a storyteller’s talent for detail and narrative, G. J. Meyer presents a compelling account of the blunders that produced the world’s first ‘great war’ and set the stage for many of the tragic events that followed.” (Steve M. Gillon, resident historian, the History Channel)
“Thundering, magnificent…This is a book of true greatness that prompts moments of sheer joy and pleasure. Researched to the last possible dot…It will earn generations of admirers.” (Washington Times)
“Meyer’s sketches of the British Cabinet, the Russian Empire, the aging Austro-Hungarian Empire, the leaders of Prussia with their newly minted swagger, are lifelike and plausible. His account of the tragic folly of Gallipoli is masterful.” (Los Angeles Times)
This book gave me a greater appreciation of the impact of the Great War. Although I'd read a little on the subject, I'd read much more on WWII. This book helped me to realize how pivotal WWI was in shaping the 20th century. Listening to this book helped make sense of WWI (as much as insanity can ever be made sense of) but also helped me understand WWII. I found the author to be very objective and even handed. While he did not get bogged down in minute arguments only of interest to pedantic scholars, I appreciated that he would indicate where a point was disputed, or where there were varying opinions on a historical fact. I really enjoyed the "Background" sections, where he would give brief overviews of different facets that contributed to the nature of the war - such as the history and character of Prussia, the Cossacks, Women in the war, and so on.
The reader has a very nice accent and reading tempo, as well as very good pronunciation of all the names of historical figures and the place names - names I never would have learned to pronounce otherwise.
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.
19th Century people fighting a 20th Century war that still resonates in the 21st Century. A telling of the characters involved and their critical decisions in politics and military strategy that lead up to and allowed the carnage of 4 bloody years to go on and on. More than 9 million died needlessly in a conflict that destroyed the European culture and sowed the seeds for WWII told confidently without too much detail of the battles. The background information he provides fleshes out the context with the culture at-large. The progress of the battles focus on key moments of strategy and tactics rather than a blow-by-blow accounting. If you want to understand many of the issues facing today's world, this history will give you something think about, including the liberation of the arabs and creation of the state of Israel, the concentration of imperialistic power into the hands of the Big Three, the beginning of industrial warfare and anonymous killing machines (i.e..Drones), and the ego-driven national insecurity that leads us into conflict again and again and again.
Like most people, I didn't really have a clear idea exactly *why* Europe went to war in August of 1914, and why it took 4 long years to arrive at a peace. I left Meyer's book with a much better understanding of the factors and personalities that led the world into the meat grinder of the Great War.
The book is a bit too detailed in places, in terms of the military history and strategic wartime decision-making, and perhaps a bit light on the effects of war on the non-fighting people in the belligerent countries, but it's a minor quibble, and this is an excellent book.
The reader can be a little dry-sounding and dull, but he generally does well with the material. there's a few obvious audio-patches where the tone of voice changes mid-sentence or mid-para, but nothing too jarring.
Narrator is great. Material is easy to move through.
The writer's ability to capture the major events of the conflict and bring a comprehensive history together in one book.
Great narrator. Great accent!
Excellent coverage of a truly world-wide conflict.
Clarifies the issues that caused the War and caused it to continue for so long.
Description of Gallpoli Campaign.
Very well done history.
If you are a student of WWI you have to get this book. It is a bit long but it is never boring. One thing I really liked is how the author added "Background" chapters throughout the book. I also generally liked the level of detail for the separate battles.
This is one of the best non-fiction books (audio or otherwise) that I've ever read.
Meyer weaves various aspects of the story together by providing background segments that lend a much deeper understanding of the events depicted.
English accents make for great story-telling...don't know why. :)
More of a satisfied feeling that my understanding of the war and it's causes has been greatly increased.
Meyer clearly illustrates missed opportunities and inexplicable decisions that led to the war starting and being prolonged. Fascinating stuff.
This is the finest narrative of the Great War that I have ever read, or in this case listened to.
retired litigation lawyer; I read history; historical fiction; literary fiction. Narrator ++ important. Story equally so
Bit of background first. In anticipation of the second volume of Ken Follett's Century trilogy, to be released next month, I reread - in print form - " Fall of Giants" -which I had as an audiobook when it was first released. " Giants" is an excellent, compelling story of characters caught in WW 1, English, German, Russian and American. I usually confine my reading to WW 2, so re reading "Giants" sparked my interest to learn about the first World War. I purchased ( audiobook) "Guns of August" but gave up on it both because of Ms. Tuchman's excessive detail without context and also because it is more about the battles than the causes of the war, [gave up notwithstanding John Lee's narration]. I switched mid-listen to "A World Undone". Much, much better. Not only is the writing clearer, giving more of an overview of the war without getting lost in the "right flank went there, left flank stormed back", but each chapter provides a short "Background" giving the context of, for example, " The Serbs"; "The Hapsburgs"; "The Romanovs" or "Paris in 1914" "Tthe British commanders" " The Jews of germany" " The Sea war;" etc. By its conclusion, I had an understanding not only of individual battles, (which didn't interest me), but an explanation of what the world was like before the war; the causes of the war; personalities of the war; and a little bit of its aftermath.If you want to get an introduction to the causes and the personalities of WW1 choose this. If you want detailed explanation of the battles, choose Guns of August
Everything!!!. His pacing, his voice, his monotone. Terrible. This is one of the rare exceptions to my rule that narration is as important as story. Seldom will I invest 27 hours to a very poor narration. I did in this case because of the content.
?? well, not all 27 hours...... but yes, finished it before I started others.
can't wait for the sequel to "Fall of Giants", due September 2012.
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