Thursday, 29 September 2016

Great Britain's Great War

As phrased by The Times: ‘If there is one new history of the war that you might actually enjoy, this is very likely it.’ Great Britain's Great War by Jeremy Paxman is as informative as any textbook, yet brilliantly written, with impeccable use of language, and even a hint of humour. Jeremy Paxman tackles the history of world war one from a number of unique perspectives, both those of well-known generals and politicians, and that of the ordinary infantry soldier. The latter, in fact, features first, as the book begins by telling the story of Paxman’s uncle, Charlie, who “in his entire military career… won no medals… never advanced beyond the most junior rank and almost certainly never killed nor wounded a single German.”

Later, he goes on to talk about Kitchener, Sir Edward Grey and Lloyd George, but it is his uncle’s more personal tale that gives the most insight into life at war- the emotions and relatability of it is what separates this from the standard ‘facts-and-dates’ style non-fiction book. The wittily-titled chapters and high quality illustrations and photographs just add to the finesse and the painstakingly sourced personal letters and song extracts that embellish the narrative are invaluable as to the insight they give and the thoughts that they inspire. This book offers both entertainment and knowledge to the reader, and does not require prior knowledge of the war in order to truly understand and profit from what it offers, making it suitable for virtually anyone.


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