Book Review: World War One by Norman Stone

World War One: A Short HistoryWorld War One: A Short History by Norman Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this as part of my Schole Sisters 5×5 challenge topic of World War I.

There are absolutely flashes of brilliance in this book, including the entire final chapter “Aftermath.”

I think part of my problem with this book is that I’m less intrigued by the battles and military specifics than I am by the thinking and thematic trends that lead to the war and the decision making and how it affects the battles. Stone tries to give us that, but I often found myself mired in artillery numbers and passages that probably well explicated specific maneuvers and derring-do, without greater military understanding, went over my head – and his writing style, here, didn’t help me find firm footing.

Following individuals in such a mire was tricky at best and remembering which commander did what became more convoluted. I think next WWI book, I’ll have to make myself a chart.

That said, I have a much greater understanding of just what went on from this short (190 pgs!) book covering the before, beginning, war, and after. I think I can move on to something with greater depth after this particular reading. I see he also has a World War Two book, a topic which I’m significantly more conversant in and I wonder if I would like it better simply because I have better background. I suspect that is the case. I’m tempted to have a matched pair.

Stone does a good job showing the transition from a 19th Century war into a 20th Century one and the growing pains that both sides went through as they struggled to figure out how to use the technology and mechanization. Not just utilize, but develop and manufacture such.

He also does a good job of showing the disenchantment both sides began to feel – along all of the fronts – for the war and glories of war itself. The disillusionment of all parties is mentioned from time to time but really developed in the Aftermath chapter when dealing with Armistice, Retributions, the German people, and Hitler’s reflections thereon.

I enjoyed his writing style, the occasional sly remark, except when it left me confused. This is really worth 3.5 stars, but I’m not sure I could give it 4, so 3 it is in the GoodReads economy.

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