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Publisher's Summary

The Western Front dominates our memories of the First World War. Yet a million and half men died in northeast Italy in a war that need never have happened, when Italy declared war on the Habsburg Empire in May 1915. Led by General Luigi Cadorna, the most ruthless of all the Great War commanders, waves of Italian conscripts were sent charging up the limestone hills north of Trieste to be massacred by troops fighting to save their homelands.

This is a great, tragic military history of a war that gave birth to fascism. Mussolini fought in those trenches, but so did many of the greatest modernist writers in Italian, German, and English: Ungaretti, Gadda, Musil, Hemingway. It is through these accounts that Mark Thompson, with great skill and empathy, brings to life this forgotten conflict.

©2009 Mark Thompson (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[A] study as pioneering as it is brilliant.... Drawing on an impressive array of British, Italian, and Austrian sources, including fascinating interviews with survivors, Thompson re-creates the Italo-Austrian conflict in all its facets.... The White War is the work of a bright young historian proving his mettle." ( The Weekly Standard)
"Thompson's book is beautifully written, and he skillfully interweaves vivid accounts of military progress with telling vignettes about the more extraordinary figures caught up in the fighting." ( Independent)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Lost in history...

To a limited number of history buffs "The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919" will have meaning. In my case, my grandfather was a participant in this interminable carnage. As you drive through any village down the length of Italy you will invariably see a monument in the central piazza to "I nostri caduti" "Our dead" from the first world war. And I mean EVERY hamlet no matter how small, some with just three or four names etched on a weathered monument.

Listening to this account of the unbelievable stupid military tactics and waste of human life in this lost part of the war has changed my viewpoint as I visit these towns and villages. I now always stop and carefully examine these forgotten memorials and read each name and imagine what their lives were like and the effect it had on their families and home towns.

Beside the engrossing account of the actual fighting, impossible terrain and weather conditions, the book gives insight into the growth of Italy into a nation state from an assortment of provinces. Men who could not even speak Italian, such as those from the islands of Sardinia and Sicily were mingled with a thousand sub cultures that made up the Italian mainland. It was the first time some people actually thought of themselves as belonging to the entity called Italy.

The author Mark Thompson does a creditable job gathering the facts and presents them in a smooth historical flow. The narration by Gerard Doyle could be warmer and with more dramatic effect but it will do as is.

The names and fates of all those preserved on those monuments are mostly forgotten as are the battles fought with almost no gain in territory or military accomplishment. I look at this work as an effort to acknowledge what they went through and suffered. I found this listen worthwhile and gave meaning to a lost corner of the first world war.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An indispensable contribution

THE WHITE WAR is an indispensable contribution to the study of the Italian experience of World War I. It is all the more valuable in that it is written in English and available on audio. I read it years ago and have given the book as a gift. All of use who have read it and have been impressed by Mark Thompson's straightforward style and immense research and recommended it to still more readers. I was delighted to see it become available on audio and highly recommend it to any who are interested in this neglected yet incredibly important conflict.

I've been obsessed with World War 1 from childhood, and also have a passion for Italian history. The focus of this book perhaps makes it a specialist's subject, although it certainly deserves a wide general readership. If you are not interested in the minutiae of Italian life, both at home and on the front, you might prefer to look elsewhere. But if you're like me and you devour such detail with relish, you might just love this book as much as I do. The characters, both honorable and reprehensible, and the experiences, will stay with me forever.

Apparently the narrator is an all or nothing proposition. I didn't mind him at all because he reminded me of another narrator I enjoy, Paul Panting. Furthermore, he didn't slaughter the Italian language. There are all too many narrators on audible who cannot pronounce their native English properly, far less another language, so for Gerard Doyle and others like him, I am truly grateful!

Buon ascolta.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary
  • Sterling, VA, United States
  • 09-14-12

The Other Front...

Much has been written about the terrible battles of WWI, Ypres, Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele, but very little about the horrors of the Italian Front and the battles of the Isonzo. This is a must read book for anyone who wants a complete understanding of the history of WWI, but even more for those interested in the history of Italy. Italy's dreams of expansion and it's desire to become a colonial power led it to participate in a devastating war that cost in excess of 1 million military and civilian lives. This books explores the political and cultural context of the time, and the personalities that so influenced Italy during the first half of the last century.

My only quibble with the book is the obvious lack of maps, but that is easily remedied by resorting to Google maps.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great story - Ok narration

I knew very little of the Italian front in WWI other than what I had read in A Farewell to Arms. This exhaustive account provides a great mix of strategic and tactical detail. My only complaint is that the narration is wanting in spots. Some sections had some technical issues with whistling from the microphone and the volume was not always consistent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating history that deserves better narration

In content and construction, this is a fascinating book, a narrative account of the events that led Italy into the Great War against the Central Powers generally and the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire in particular. Thompson has crafted what should be a gripping listen from start to finish, capturing the political sentiment of the months leading up to war, weaving together the viewpoints of characters ranging from anonymous soldiers to the martinet Generalissimo Luigi Cadorna, and providing evocative descriptions of the beautiful but rugged landscape that compounded the suffering caused by the brutal trench warfare and doomed assaults ordered by the Italian high command.

I say "what should be a gripping listen" because of the narrator's style. Doyle's reading is monotonous and rather than being immersive is distracting. His Italian pronunciation is more or less fine (for example, he knows that "gl" in italian names does not sound like "gl" in "glass"), but every sentence is spoken with an identical cadence that sounds like a cross between a question and statement of surprise, without pauses to allow the listener to detect the end of a paragraph.

This is a tragic, fascinating, and under-appreciated part of the story of the Great War, and Thompson deserves kudos for telling it. It just should have been read by someone else.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping Picture of Forgotten History

This story is amazingly complex, but the author did a fantastic job of keeping it organized. I found it easy to follow and understand. If anyone has ever wondered what it was like in Italy during the first World War, I highly recommend this book! The history behind it is fascinating, an almost unbelievable tragedy that Thompson clearly explains and helps you visualize. There are incredible lessons to be learned from the White War; lessons that can't be found on the Western Front. This book is, for every person with an interest in history and for every curious student of times gone by, a must read!

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Dry as toast

English accents can be awesome or sleepy. Book is good but I want to stay awake. Drawn out ..........

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Hard book for listening

This reader was the most mechanical unexpressive reader I have EVER heard. Painful to listen to him

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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I do not recommend this book

The white war is more of in depth look into the nationalistic fervor that existed on this front rather than the story of the actual battles. Also the narrator continually uses an upward inflection when he spoke which drove me insane.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stuart
  • Upper Hutt, New Zealand
  • 01-01-13

An interesting look at a forgotten front

Would you try another book from Mark Thompson and/or Gerard Doyle?

I possibly would read another work by Mark Thompson but it would very much depend upon the subject matter.

I had started reading this book in print but it all got to be a bit to much as there was so much content. As an Audible I was able to bite off as much or as little as I wanted at any given time.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Roger
  • 09-30-11

OK, but rather spoilt by narrator

An area of history I knew little about so I was pleased to find this book. The rather breathy, exclaimation style of the narrator was a bit off-putting though. It was as if he was narrating for a childrens book. Perhaps a bit of audio "proof reading" would have helped too - he said Australian instead of Austrian once or twice.
Well researched though, and recommended. I will Google some pictures of the mountain fighting to get an idea of what it looked like.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dave
  • 04-10-11

Excellent study of a little-known conflict

Like most in the English-speaking world I tend to think of the Great War as a conflict between the British/French and Germans in Flanders. The many other fronts get little coverage, so this book on the Italian war effort was a refreshing change. The book is far more than just a story of the campaign - it covers the politics in Rome and even the literary angle - while conforming to the popular format of including many private letters and diaries to give an impression of the experience of the ordinary soldier as well as the generals. I thought the balance between these elements was spot on, and worked well in portraying the horrors of the war itself and the wider political games being played. Thoroughly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • paul hadfeild
  • 02-14-18

ok ish but deadly boring

What did you like best about The White War? What did you like least?

I wanted to read a book about the war in the mountains between Italy and Austria not about obscure Italian pre war politicians .This book is all over the place at least 50% is quotes from various writers,poets and various important people the author has dug up but not about about the war.Skip the first 6 chapters to get to something interesting I only listened that far because I forgot my personal radio so had nothing else to listen to .Don't fear the author goes back into boring nonsense every other chapter .It should be called politics and policies before after and during the war with a few facts about the actual war thrown around I mean whole chapters on people who died in 1870 odd!

I am sure this is a well written and researched book that that historians might like its not all bad just feels like its very hard going!

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Couldn't face any more

What does Gerard Doyle bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Says Australia instead of Austria a few times

Did The White War inspire you to do anything?

Refund

Any additional comments?

I normally try to finish everything .

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Senior
  • 01-02-18

The Unique Italians

The White War is all about the Italians. It focuses on territorial aspirations how the Italians fought on the Italian Front, and how Italians felt throughout the First World War, both in Italy and in Austria-Hungary. The character and thoughts of Italians are explored throughout the book, and they are key to understanding Italy's unique experience.

The narrator is okay. He appears to read each sentence in the same way, with a tone which indicates surprise.