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1914 [Hardcover]

Lyn Macdonald
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Nov 1987
Based almost entirely on the accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors, told in their own words, and on new or little-known letters, diaries, official reports, and papers, the author weaves together an engrossing and moving picture of what it was like to fight in the British Army in 1914.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph; 1st edition (9 Nov 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718123948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718123949
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The preface to 1914 tells the simple tale of how British Tommies came to be so known. That Lynn Macdonald has brought this to her readership shows evidence of her remarkable curiosity and coherence with the mentality of her readers. More importantly, it stand as an example of the compassion, affiliation and (not too) respectful admiration she has born for the simple every-day soldiers who fought the First World War. Her attitude to those men and her understanding of their times, their concerns, humour, culture and variety mean that the focus of her attention is on the richest raw material that the Great War can provide — the experiences of those who fought it. Thankfully, Macdonald also has remarkably artful narrative and linguistic skills. She brings her history to the page so well that no fiction could quite touch it — it engages the reader like a tale woven to enchant, not like the carefully researched piece of history that it is. The result is an account that is extraordinary.
Macdonald tells the whole history, with her focus on the effects on the individual. She explains the political circumstances, the history and the cultural background, all of which leads to the strategic position which pits army against army. Making the tactical level clear, Macdonald also delves into those extraneous influences that can turn the tide of events — the weather, the moon’s phases — whatever has influence. With all this done, we find ourselves seamlessly at the level of a single individual’s experience. Unlike so many historians who have some form pre-determined agenda, Macdonald doesn’t favour any group over another, relating the experience of the general as clearly and lucidly as that of the average Tommy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Macdonald's book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the 'It'll be all over by Christmas' phase of WWI. It is a fascinating account of the regular army ('The Old Contemptibles' as Macdonald avoids calling them wherever possible) in the summer and autumn of 1914, and of a war of movement before a war of stagnation, so closely associated with the Western Front, was reached. The retreat from Mons, The Battle of the Marne and how this led to the First Battle of Ypres may be fully understood from this book. Personally, I would have benefited from a greater number of maps to show the 'war of movement' across northern France and Belgium, and for greater detail of the Battle of the Marne, but these are my only reservations. Take time also to look at the photograph on both front and rear covers: it speaks volumes about the men of 1914! An important book, particularly for those who think that WWI was just about fixed trenches, no-man's land and the Somme. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Lyn Macdonald is perhaps one of the most influential writers in the new form of accessible history now being written, but she remains ahead of many others due to her non-invasive style. This book is compiled from painstakingly collated facts, letters and conversations with eyewitnesses from The Great War. But unlike many books that consist of dry retelling of historical military manoeuvres, this is written with accuracy and compassion. The book 1914 (Days Of Hope) will be surprising to many people as very little of the first part of the war was fought in the trenches and a large proportion of the British standing army was lost, but what they achieved was astonishing and is largely overlooked when The Great War is thought of. The first couple of chapters discuses the logistics of how the war started and how the troops were deployed to France. The vast majority of the book describes the events after the landed in France. This was so gripping I literally read it right though the night. It has you laughing with ridiculous events, such as an officer trying to dye his white horse brown to make it less visible at night and gets the dye mixture wrong and ending up with a canary yellow one by mistake, much to the delight of the enlisted men. But by describing everyday events it allows you into the feelings and camaraderie of the men, until you feel that you have some kind of understanding of how they felt and how they could do what they did. I can not recommend Lyn Macdonald's books more highly for being readable, informative and, forgive me for saying it, but completely lacking the pompous overtones of so many accurate historical books.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
How many times have you seen the phrase "If you only read one book read this" to find that, after reading the book, it's not so great after all. Well this one time you will not be disappointed. Lyn Macdonald takes you straight into the hearts and minds of those involved in the conflict with her blend of narrative and first hand accounts. From the very beginning of the book you are drawn into the conflict that marked the end of imperialism and ushered in a new age of industrialised warfare. It is a refreshing approach and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1914 14 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lyn Macdonald has written a very readable account of the first year of the Great War. She manages to combine scholarship with a personal dimension that results from her discussions with so many of those who took part. Her account brings to life the actions of that 'contemptible little army' in outclassing and out-shooting the German military machine. The heroism, tenacity and professional excellence of the British Army comes over clearly, as does the shocked courage of the Germans, massacred time and again, advancing against small, and often dislocated, portions of British infantry, cavalry and artillery. By the end of the year, that British Army had ceased to exist, but so had the German momentum and ambition. After that it became a war of attrition while we searched desperately for a solution to the weapons and communications impasse.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wealth of Information
Book was a gift for my father who was researching WW1 to give a talk. Seems a well put together resource.
Published 2 months ago by Mr. Richard C. Price-walker
3.0 out of 5 stars Book condition
Having written condition reports on books and placed on Amazon for sale for nearly five years this book was not 'Very Good' as claimed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Keith Lawrence
2.0 out of 5 stars This is not military history. It is written as fiction.
I don't expect many people will find my review 'helpful' because it flies in the face of the 5* high praise of other all other reviewers. Read more
Published 9 months ago by C. Nation
5.0 out of 5 stars 1914
was bought as a present
when asked, was told it was a very interesting and gave it the thumbs up as a good read.
Published on 30 Jan 2010 by rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyn Macdonald is a goddess.
The Great War has been written to death: It's responsible for a whole era of British literature, and a hornet's nest of political controversy. Read more
Published on 25 Nov 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book For The Next Century
This book can be described as coming from another age. However, on reading it you cannot help but feel that it is of the present. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars History about people
This book, and its successors are the _MOST_ interesting and poignant histories I have read. Using accounts from old soldiers, and a narrative that avoids the glib histories of... Read more
Published on 16 Oct 1998
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