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Memorial to the Missing of the Somme [Hardcover]

Gavin Stamp
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 2006
Edwin Lutyens' Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval in Northern France, visited annually by tens of thousands of tourists, is arguably the finest structure erected by any British architect in the twentieth century. It is the principal, tangible expression of the defining event in Britain's experience and memory of the Great War, the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, and it bears the names of 73,000 soldiers whose bodies were never found at the end of that bloody and futile campaign. This brilliant study by an acclaimed architectural historian tells the origin of the memorial in the context of commemorating the war dead; it considers the giant classical brick arch in architectural terms, and also explores its wider historical significance and its resonances today. So much of the meaning of the twentieth century is concentrated here; the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing casts a shadow into the future , a shadow which extends beyond the dead of the Holocaust, to the Gulag, to the 'disappeared' of South America and of Tianenmen. The Wonders of the World is a series of books that focuses on some of the world's most famous sites or monuments. Their names will be familiar to almost everyone: they have achieved iconic stature and are loaded with a fair amount of mythological baggage. These monuments have been the subject of many books over the centuries, but our aim, through the skill and stature of the writers, is to get something much more enlightening, stimulating, even controversial, than straightforward histories or guides.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 1st Edition edition (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861978111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861978110
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


[a] moving and eloquent book... (Literary Review)

as a piece of architectural analysis it is impressive (The Spectator)

Stamp has provided an invaluable, detailed and illuminating study... (Guardian)

the value of Stamp's book lies in its eloquent account of the genius of the vision of Edward Lutyens...who created in the Monument to the Missing at Thiepval the central metaphor of a generation's experience of appalling loss. (Observer)

This book is a eloquent, moving lament for the futile waste and industrialised killing of the First World War, and indeed of the 20th Century - an elegy which resonates powerfully today. (Sunday Telegraph)

Much, much more than architectural history, for here, encapsulated in marmoreally angry prose, is an account of that collective act of mass murder, without parallel in history, known as the Great War. An unforgettable, passionate book. (A.N. Wilson Evening Standard)

Perfectly formed and beautifully written, this book is a minor masterpiece, a paragon of its genre. It will move all but the hardest heart to tears at the folly, and the glory, that is man. (Ross Leckie The Times)

About the Author

Gavin Stamp is a well known architectural historian and writer. He has taught at Glasgow School of Art and held a research post at Cambridge. He lives in London.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly delightful 6 Feb 2012
I've no interest in architecture, and picked this book up entirely because I couldn't find anything else to read. What a delightful accident! An enchanting account of the memorial, how it came to be built, and of its architect Lutyens. I thought the comment made by a reader on one of the other admiring reviews was spot on : "I understood, sensed, more about WW1 than I had from reading this little book dozens of more substantial works. It is curious how now and again you read something and make a connection. In a factual, non sentimental way Stamp says a lot more about WW1 than just the Thiepval memorial."

A slim, beautifully written and understated memorial to lost lives and a lost time.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Excellent ! 1 Sep 2006
This is an excellent and easy-to-read book that goes into a surprising amount of detail, not only on the memorial itself, but on Lutyens, war memorials in general and the First World War, plus what has happened to the memorial after its completion and contemporary attitudes to it and to war and war memorials in general, even quoting the excellent fourth series of "Blackadder", as well as Sebastian Faulks' "Birdsong" as part of his examination of why people born long after the war are still fascinated by it and why the memorial attracts more visitors today than it did in the years immediately following the war. I'm familiar with Gavin Stamp's other books on architects and architectural history and this book is certainly up there with the best of his work.

The book is part of Profile Books' "Wonders of the World" series and before I read it I was surprised to see Thiepval included in a series that includes the Alhambra, the Colosseum and the Parthenon, but afterwards, taking Stamp's idea that it is a memorial to all those who have died in war, I can see why it was included. I'm looking forward to the volume on St Pancras Station in the same series.

I thoroughly recommend this book !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great work analysed 6 Jan 2012
A terrific book covering the background, conception, design, construction of the Thiepval Memorial by the master architect of the 20th century, Edwin Lutyens. Stamp is an eloquent writer and this book is informative, scholarly and entirely readable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ICONIC MONUMENT ON THE SOMME 15 July 2008
To Great War enthusiasts, military historians and battlefield tour guides, architects and family history researchers, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval needs little if any introduction, as this most impressive monument which bears the names of 73,000 British Commonwealth servicemen whose bodies were never identified, not only stands out magnificently in the French countryside for miles around, but is also known by thousands worldwide.

The first time I saw this structure, I was awestruck and although I have visited it many times since, I never cease to be amazed at both the incredible loss of life and the creativity of the architect who designed this imposing structure. Thiepval is an iconic memorial to the Great War and as such, it attracts thousands of visitors each year. A large number visit it out of curiosity, however the vast majority visit it during a battlefield tour or on a side trip to see the name of a long lost ancestor who died fighting for King and country, in a war that was supposed to end all wars! One thing for certain, is that they will be impressed by its magnitude.

This splendid volume so eloquently written tells the full story behind this significant memorial and includes the reasons for its architectural importance, the way in which it commemorates the dead and of course its wider historical significance. The volume was a great success when originally published in hardback format and therefore I am sure this paperback edition will be every bit as popular and if not more popular, as at just 8.99, it represents excellent value for money and is very affordable and will without a doubt, due to the increased interest in the Great War and family history research in general, appeal to a wider range of readers of all ages.

I believe anyone whose ancestors name is featured on the memorial, will not want to be without a copy of this publication in their library!
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