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A War in Words [Paperback]

Svetlana Palmer , Sarah Wallis
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 11 Sep 2003 --  

Book Description

11 Sep 2003
This is a portrait of World War I through the letters and diaries of its participants, recently uncovered during extensive research across 28 countries for the 10-part Channel 4 series, "The First World War", showing during autumn 2003. Combatants, eyewitnesses and victims talk directly to us from within the war itself and from all sides of the conflict. Their testimony - from that of one of Franz Ferdinand's assassins, to the final entry from a French soldier as he revisits the battlefield in 1919 - recounts the complex history of a war whose repercussions changed the world irrevocably.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd; 1st Edition edition (11 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743248317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743248310
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 728,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Sarah Wallis has worked as a researcher and producer on a number of contemporary and historical films about Europe, including the BBC's award-winning People's Century. Svetlana Palmer was born in Moscow and educated in Russia and Britain, where she has lived since 1990. She too is a researcher and producer and her credits include The Cold War and The Second World War In Colour. This is their first book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A powerful, powerful book recommended not only for students of World War 1 but for all those who desire peace and an end to senseless hostilities. When WW1 ended it was called "the war to end all wars" and maybe it could have been if only world leaders could have read this excellent book by Palmer and Wallis. Unedited, told from their diaries and letters home, the book lets you feel the abject helplessness of ordinary citizens just trying to stay alive and to see their loved ones once again.
Incredibly, the stories, taken from diaries and letters home, fit together, paint a picture and carry a message, a warning for all to hear. Most war books tell the victor's tale, recount grand strategies and battles won. But seldom do we hear from the lonely foot soldier or those left a home trying to subsist on scant food, or from those who end up paying the ultimate price but had no say. From someone who seldom reads war books I highly recommend this one.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A war in words 30 Jan 2005
This can be summed up as one of the best books i have read in a long time,It is an easy book to get in to and a hard one to put down. It tells the storys via there diary inputs of several people involved in the first world war. You find yourself easily imagining yourself in there shoes, and how it must of felt to have lived in that time period. You also cant help to be sadened when a charecter who has shared his personal thoughts and letters with you dies. This book tells the storys of people who endured the war whether they fought in it or lived through it. It takes you across all the continents and helps you realise that the war affected everyone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning ... 10 Jan 2006
This book represented a totally new viewpoint for me and my interest in World War I. Told from many different perspectives - military and civilian, belligerent and peace-loving - as well as from all sides involved in the war, this book not only helps clarify through real testimony the events that led to the first ever truly global conflict, but it also allows you, for that brief moment, to enter the lives and loves, hopes and fears of those living the whole experience.
A truly wonderful, memorable account. It had me wincing at gruesome detail, as well as laughing out loud at certain comic ironies detailed by some of the witnesses - proves how determined the human spirit can be!
Most importantly of all, it allowed me to see what our then enemies were thinking and feeling ... and to be honest, they were no different to us - they just wanted to go home.
This book has been a truly uplifting experience.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 8 Jun 2005
This book is beautifully structured, with a pairing of two people in parallel positions on each side (for example opposing officers, children, women at home) being the basis of each section. As well as the enchanting and gripping real-life accounts, the authors also include contextual information which helps the book to flow really well and eliminates minor gaps in the stories. The hard work is really to their credit, and the time they've spent into collecting and organising the research really shows - especially with the attention to detail, for example including the written versions of interviews conducted with illiterate African soldiers.
This book is extremely useful for A level students studying WW1 in English Lit.
A perfect book to dip in and out of, or to read straight through as I did, stopping only to note key quotations and muse over the full implications of the heart-wrenching true-life stories, many of which would remain hidden forever without this masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The First World War is a period that has been heavily covered in literature in recent years, particularly trench warfare. This book sheds new light on some of the less familiar theatres of that war. The structure is familiar in that it takes extracts from diaries (and a transcript from an oral record) and interweaves them, telling the story of the course of the war, as some of the "Forgotten Voices" series do.

Some of the diaries end abruptly with the death of the writer, which ironically, is possibly what helped to preserve them, as the written thoughts of those who died were very precious to relatives left behind.
Some of the accounts are beautifully written - particularly impressive are young Yves Congar who survived to become a Cardinal in the Catholic Church, and German teenager Piete Kuehr, who became an author as an adult.

The book contains the first account I have read from the Turks at Gallipoli, and offers a fascinating comparison of two diaries kept by opposing sides in East Africa.There is a glimpse of events that may have helped shape future history with the writings of Rudolf Hess, who became a founding father of the Nazi Party.

Most moving of all for me were the jottings of Canadian soldier Winthrop "Winnie" McClare, who enrolled underage, having built up his physical strength from working on his family's farm as a young teenager. His curtailed education meant that his writing style remained unpolished, underlining his extreme youth.

For those interested in the military and social history of the period, this is an enjoyable and very readable book, extremely well researched. Where possible, details of the diarists are supplied, which helps to round off their stories, and brings them alive to us.
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