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No Man's Land: 1918 - The Last Year of the Great War (World War I) Paperback – 1 Sep 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 727 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; New edition edition (1 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803294514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803294516
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.6 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,990,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

John Toland is a Pultizer Prize-winning author. His works include Adolf Hitler, The Rising Sun, and Battle: The Story of the Bulge, available in a Bison Books edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Sept. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is by no means a bad book, and it's certainly not badly written, and yet I have several quibbles with it, starting with the title. The image of the Great War with its seeming endless trench warfare - giving rise to the term no-man's-land - stems largely from the years 1915-17, when the war was largely static. In 1918 it became much more fluid.
Toland writes in a vivid style, transporting the reader to the various battlefields, and generally tries to see the war through the eyes of both privates and field-marshals. He also includes several colourful anecdotes and vivid descriptions of battles. There are even some spies' tales. This style may work well for some, but I would have preferred a more stringent format. As an avid reader of literature on the First World War, I prefer to keep strategy and tactics separate. I would recommend John Terraine for the bird's-eye view and Lyn MacDonald for readers who like soldiers' anecdotes.
However, if you want an entertaining read about 1918, this is not a bad buy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Engrossing Narrative of a Tragic Conflict 4 Feb. 2007
By K.A.Goldberg - Published on
Format: Paperback
This gripping account of the last year of the First World War is well worth reading. Author John Toland focuses on the Western Front and describes tactics, strategies, politics, economics and personalities. Readers see how in March of 1918 a weary but still-powerful German army, fortified with fresh divisions from Russia, broke through the lines of the exhausted French and British. The Germans sensed victory, but they were stopped cold in July by a combination of British and French grit, plus fresh divisions newly arrived from the USA. As the author shows, the tide soon turned, the Allies surged ahead, and by November of 1918 the war ended with the Armistice. Readers get a feel for trench warfare in all its mud, blood, and horrors. We see how German civilians were short of food due to the British blockade, and how British tanks began to make a difference - a fact the Germans remembered two decades later. The author also describes the war's politics, and we see that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proved an effective wartime leader despite his semi-pacifism.

John Toland (1912-2004) was a popular non-academic historian who wrote superbly readable history. Readers of this gripping narrative might also consider THE LAST 100 DAYS, THE RISING SUN, HITLER: A BIOGRAPHY, and several other stellar efforts by this very capable author.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Excellent for history buffs or casual readers 2 May 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Toland provides an outstanding look at the politics, tactics, strategy, and personalities of the last year of WWI. He also provides good "background material" on the earlier years of the war without bogging the reader down with too much detail. The book almost reads like a novel - highly engrossing.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By D. Blankenship - Published on
John Toland died in 2004. Right off the top of my head I cannot think of one of his works that I have not read at one time or another. I will admit right up front that Toland is one of my favorite non-academic historians, or writers of history - it you will. I personally have not read one of his books that did not inform me and entertain me on some level. "No Man's Land," the book being reviewed here is no exception. Now I am not a (or is it `an'?) historian by any means. No, I am a reader of history and have been for years. It is a hobby.

That being said, Toland has created a very readable and understandable work addressing the last year of WWI. He has not made the mistake of many writers and historians in that he has not tried to address every issue be it political, historical, military or social in one single volume. My books shelves are lined with books covering the "Great War" and even with all these volumes by different authors available, I still do not have access to each and every bit of information I would like.

Toland has given us a myriad of facts and done so in a very digestible manner. His skill as a writer is equal to that of the nonacademic historian. He does cover many point of the war during this last horrific year; politics, military strategy, thoughts of both military and political leaders and does a wonderful job of giving the reader the overall "feel" of those tragic times. Toland does touch on the changing face of the world from the collapse of Czarist Russia to the surprising leadership abilities displayed by Woodrow Wilson, a president who most certainly would have not been my choice as a wartime president.

Toland has, I feel, done his best to record both sides of the issue and has dealt well with the German leadership, i.e. the royal family.

If you have any interest in this era what so every, then this book should go on your list. It is a wonderful work for those that are not familiar with the happenings that gave us WWII, but it is also simply a good read for those who are more familiar.

Now will you find information in this book that other historians, both professional and lay disagree with? Most certainly yes! This is a good thing though. I like it when the reader is given different views, different opinions and different takes. I sometimes feel that many authors/historians consider their readers to be rather mindless creatures with no ability to weigh opposing ideas.

I just finished my second reading of this book and will quite likely give it yet another down the road in a few years. It amazes me as to how much I forget or miss with a first reading of a work such as this.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Reviews of Toland, Gilbert & Weinraub's Histories of World War One 18 April 2012
By Don Reed - Published on
No Man's Land, John Toland; Doubleday & Co., Inc. (1980)

This also covers The First World War, A Complete History, Martin Gilbert (Henry Holt & Co., Inc.; 1994) & A Stillness Heard Around The World, The End of The Great War: November 1918, Stanley Weinraub (E.P. Dutton; 1985).

Most unfortunately, I didn't read them in the order listed above (Toland; Gilbert; Weinraub). Gilbert's The First World War - eagerly anticipated - was chosen first.

What a mistake!

Gilbert had me hooked from the first minute of his tour de force interview-&-historical lecture, rebroadcast on CSPAN3 (01/27/08).

An unidentified historian during the Q&A portion of a Winston Churchill symposium (held at the Politics & Prose Bookstore, WDC, 10/16/05) stated that, in his opinion, Gilbert had met the demanding criteria of the successful historian, in that his histories were sterling examples of the following guidelines:

"The essence of good history is well-directed research that knows what to do & [what to] leave out, & also [that it is written] extraordinarily well - & it involves people in their books."

So my assumption was, "someone who can speak that well must be a great writer." Finding a hardbound copy of Gilbert's FWW in the Lyrical Ballad (Saratoga Springs, NY) that same year, in the summer of 2008, was regarded as a great stroke of luck.

Reviewing the margin notes, I'm astonished that I persevered until page 252 (@ one-third of the book). By page 52, his limitations as a writer were already appallingly evident (i.e., spelling out in its mind-numbing entirety, "British Expeditionary Force," FIVE TIMES in less than one page, rather than to use the simple & commonly accepted abbreviation "BEF" after the first full reference).

But even before then, the non-sequiturs, incomplete sentences, redundancies, sloppy non-identification of the nationalities of warring generals & armies - & especially, the singularly inept misplacement of "were seen" in one elaborate sentence - all gave warning that this was a writer's fiasco, upon which the additional gift of editing incompetence had been bestowed.

And in both aspects, this held sway. It wasn't long before "Bolsheviks" was repeated 7 times in 13 lines. Antonyms were mindlessly fused together (as was also a torpedoed ship: "the Falaba. The Falaba..." - at the end of one sentence & the onset of the next). Much later on, to assist the forgetful reader, the scene of battle is mentioned - ELEVEN TIMES in less than the span of 2 pages (pp. 230-1: "Verdun ...Verdun ... Verdun..."). And on the next page - in case you're unclear as to who's lobbing the hand grenades - a "German" or "Germans" are identified FIVE times in less than one half of one paragraph.

Don't you just hate it when the Hungarians barge in, unannounced, with the other, unanticipated explosives?

Speaking of literary water bombs, this classic redundancy could not fail but to impress:

"...Torpedoed by a Turkish torpedo" (also see p. 211: "...ferocious blizzard with driving snow").

After numerous verbose explanations, hope was raised by the sighting of a three-word sentence on page 167... & hope was murdered by the ensuing verbatim quotation of a long speech by a German occupier of Belgium (the point of which could have been summed up in one sentence).

Facts are botched. Perhaps, you logically assumed - prior to reading Gilbert - that it would be physically impossible for engineers to construct a 1,100-mile long European railroad tunnel. According to the author, you'd be wrong (p. 186).

(To place his preposterous error of fact into context, there is a massive American train tunnel, which, at the time of its construction in 1910, stretched the capabilities of the railroad engineers to their breaking point. It was completed four years before WWI began. It starts in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, runs under the East River, & terminates when the trains finally ascend to ground level on Long Island. The length of the tunnel is three miles. History Channel, "Extreme Trains," 02/24/09.)

And if you were under the impression that the Italians & the Austrians were enemies in the war, think again. On page 225, they are fighting as allies against Montenegro (if this actually happened, an explanation as to how this was possible had been thoughtfully omitted).

An editor's correction of the above flaws would have been in vain, doomed by Gilbert's primary liability, because...

Significant Historians are afflicted with "The New York Times 'The' Disease."

"On January 5, the Prime Minister, Asquith, introduced the first Conscription Bill to the House of Commons."

Vaccinated writer:

"On January 5, Prime Minister Asquith introduced the first Conscription Bill to the House of Commons."

Try vaulting over the thousands of additional commas necessitated by "The Prime Minister,..." "The Kaiser,..." 'The French President,..." in a six-hundred page history of a world war.

You'd rather fight in one.

But The First World War, oddly, will survive & remain on the shelf. Gilbert compulsively assigned an exact date to almost every event of the war. And this commendable professionalism is something that very few historians succeed in achieving. FWW can be used as an exact-date reference volume.

A Stillness Heard Around The World by Stanley Weinraub had been purchased at the Ballad, years earlier. One or two half-hearted attempts to read it had been made. It failed to impress & afterwards, spent years on the pending shelf. Then the latest attempt - after Gilbert was court-martialed - resulted in a weird discovery.

Whomever did the actual printing choose the worst possible dimensions for the actual publishing of the book. Its size is too small for its volume! In other words, it is impossible to physically hold it open while it is being read, unless the book is placed on a desk & then physically restrained from closing itself. Place it down on a flat surface & then open it; remove your hands - & it pops right back up with its spine arching & then practically closes itself.

This isn't the worst printing decision witnessed (Knopf's "A Fine Place To Daydream" type size was 2/16th's of an inch high. In this same book, the type size selected for "A Note About The Type" - describing the origin & designer of Centaur type - was completely illegible).

But combine this & Weinraub's uninspiring, academic writing , & you've got a dead battery in your table of contents. Margin notes, title page: "The continuity of narrative is ruined by the constant need to re-read the text to figure out why it's not making sense (missing information, transition cues, etc.)."

Weinraub's basic sincerity was appreciated (none of Gilbert's "and now The Professor States" pomposity surfaced), and I wish I had been there when it had still been possible to improve Weinraub's proofs. But Stillness was set aside, again...its reading possibly to be resumed.

No Man's Land was the last refuge.

It was hard. Toland came though again - it's amazing how his reputation as a historian, whatever his flaws, is so lightly regarded. But the splendid clarity of his accounts of the suffering did not make for pleasant reading. Nor did the descriptions of the various politicians - most of whom, if they had been subjected to today's media scrutiny, doubtless would have resulted in their being swiftly turned out of office.

"The most expensive product is probably the best one on the market."

Rule of thumb? No. The unreadable The First World War & the critically deficient Stillness both cost $12.50. But for a mere three dollars, it was possible to purchase No Man's Land - the least commercially appreciated but the best-written of the three books on the same subject.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
From the trenches to the drawing rooms 24 Oct. 2008
By tgfabthunderbird - Published on
Format: Paperback
...the final year of the Great War is told through the eyes of those who were there; top brass, officers and men in the trenches. Beginning with the last great offensive by the Germans through to the armistice, Toland tells the story in great detail. Never boring, however--the horror and futility of war is there, but it's not written in a fingerpointing style. The reader can make his or her choice.

The Americans are shown in a good light, as they took to the battlefield with great ardor, but with the knowledge this was to be no walk in the fields. In fact, the players on both sides are examined honestly.

Political considerations are also examined, including the collapse of Russia and the rise of Lenin and Bolshevism. The turmoil within the German royal family is highlighted, and the situation at home is shown to be dire in the final weeks leading up to November 11th.

A heady, solid work; a must-read for students of history or anyone who has more than passing interest.
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