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A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 | [G. J. Meyer]

A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jared 01-15-15
    Jared 01-15-15
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    "Get this book"

    Fantastic history of the entire war. Definitely goes into sufficient depth and covers much of the politics behind the war which many books do not. A must-have.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryon 01-03-15
    Ryon 01-03-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent book and a perfect narrator for it"
    Would you listen to A World Undone again? Why?

    Yes, I am actually on my second listen. I read this book when it was released and was very pleased to see an unabridged audio version available, so I purchased it. What is even better than the original reading experience is the perfect choice of a narrator who pronounces the key geographical features (especially in France) properly and does a great job of conveying the properly subtle humor the author includes within the text as well as providing a great tone of somberness during certain passages that make the words more memorable.


    What other book might you compare A World Undone to and why?

    As far as WWI, I really can't compare it to others except perhaps that as a one volume account it follows a basic front to back explanation of the war much like John Keegan's "The First World War". However, Meyer conveys the essence of the conflict in a much more lively and readable way than the slightly more clinical view laid out in the work of Keegan and other authors. The background sections are brilliant and if one were to ask me to pick a book on WWI that will engage the most skeptical of young history students, this would be that work.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Too many to name, but the background sections were a great addition to the normal narrative of the work. The most memorable and heart rending section to read involves the story of the soldier-poet Wilfred Owen and how he was killed in action just before the end of the war and his mother receiving the telegram informing her of his death on the actual day of the Armistice and as the church bells were ringing to celebrate it. I also thought that the way the author explained the political/military situation and how it ended up turning into a war very well.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, if only I had the time to do so all at once!


    Any additional comments?

    Great book that breathes some life into the history without being strictly focused on the military aspects of the war. Definitely not a dry and boring book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jcrew24 12-26-14
    Jcrew24 12-26-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Incredible Comprehensive History"
    Would you listen to A World Undone again? Why?

    Yes. There was such tremendous and detailed information, I'm sure I could listen again and learn new things I missed the first time around.


    Any additional comments?

    I realized, on this 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI, that I knew very little about the Great War. This book is a captivating and extremely detailed educational tome. I wish this had been assigned to me in school, because the lessons from WWI are invaluable in evaluating modern warfare and politics. I liked the book so much I bought it as a Christmas gift for my mother.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray N 12-15-14
    Ray N 12-15-14
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    "Excellent One Volume Overview"

    An excellent one volume overview of WWI. I like that it was chronological rather than topic based. The exception being the short background sections which covered a single topic or person in more depth.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger A Guffey 11-05-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent!"
    What did you love best about A World Undone?

    A good, solid account of the Great War from start to finish.


    What other book might you compare A World Undone to and why?

    I do compare this book to The Guns of August and I like this one much better. It's a more complete story that presents the main protagonists in what feels like an accurate light at least. Guns left me with a more 'romanticized' view of some of the generals. Especially Joffre.


    What does Robin Sachs bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Robin Sachs is easy to listen to. Listening to an audio book does allow one to concentrate on picturing the scene instead of reading the words.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened to this book twice and I'm sure I'll listen to it again. It's simply too long for one sitting but I did listen for several hours at a time.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronald Monroe, CT, United States 10-11-14
    Ronald Monroe, CT, United States 10-11-14 Member Since 2010
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    "A very well done narrative in all respects."

    G.J. Meyer has done a very good job of condensing a very complex geo-political time and breaking it down into digestible pieces. It is intriguing, draws you in, and brings to life a time that continues to shape our modern history. The backround chapters are essential, and greatly assist in an understanding the thought process of some very flawed political and military decisions. The narration is excellent. Tone and inflection are perfect for what could be a dry topic, but Robert Sachs handles it like a master,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Novotny Klamath Falls OR 10-04-14
    Novotny Klamath Falls OR 10-04-14 Member Since 2010
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    "History Details Get Lost in an Audible Format"

    This book had so many details and facts and names, that is wasn't suitable for an audible listen. Much better hard copy which you could read and then go back to check on what you read earlier.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Sydney, Australia 09-19-14
    Sam Sydney, Australia 09-19-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Empathetic testament to cataclysmic events"

    Our postmodern (whatever that still means) world pivots on the Great War. Four years that replaced the cradle of modernity with a crater, ruined everything and granted everything to come... I greatly enjoyed J.G. Meyer's book, longly and cleverly mixing detail with survey and building to a confident overview of the incredible density of events, and bringing to them a modern analysis, some might say revision.

    Particularly enjoyed the emphasis given to the importance of the strategic and fighting strengths of the Australian and Canadian forces to Entente victory; the incredible description of the German front lines, especially their underground labyrinthine tunnels; the many ironies that colour monumental events... A great read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Philip 08-25-14
    Philip 08-25-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Madness, Ruin and Death"

    This War was the result of a lack of imagination or at least the inability to recognize that the world had changed. Had any of the principle actors recognized this it would have been a very short war and a very different world when it was over. Would it have been better? Who is to say but many of the millions who died would have live and given a chance to contribute. Every world leader should find this and The Guns of August on a mandatory reading list.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Connor 08-17-14
    Connor 08-17-14 Member Since 2011

    Enjoy the adventure

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    "The War that Changed Everything"

    In honor of the 100 year anniversary of World War I, listened to “A World Undone”. Covers reasons for the war, the world leaders, the important military officers, and the major battles. Importantly, the author does more than report the facts, but calls out the brilliant and the stupid which allows the listener to understand the consequences of decisions by generals and politicians.

    Both sides were guilty of wanting war and the spoils that go to the victor. The politicians lied to the public (some things never change) and said the purpose of the war is to defend ourselves and to defeat evil. But no one (Politicians, Generals nor the Public) understood that war had changed. Previously, armies rushed at each other with bayonets or charged on horses. But advancements in weapons now meant that thousands could be killed in a few minutes. There is nothing romantic about long range artillery, aircraft, machine guns, tanks and gas. No one expected that 10 million soldiers would die.

    Like World War I, this is a long book. Fortunately, the narrator is talented and I did not tire of hearing his voice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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