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The Marne, 1914
on 29 September 2014
This book, first published in 2009, recounts the lead-up to the outbreak of World War I and the encounters that came to be called the First Battle of the Marne in 1914 on the Western Front through Belgium and France.
The first part of the book covers aspects of the months leading up to July 1914 and the first parts of mobilisation from the perspectives mainly of the German, French and British forces. Once mobilisation had occurred and the forces met heading through Belgium the narrative moves to troop movements and encounters. While this has clearly been very thoroughly researched, the narrative is rather dry and at times reads a bit like an equipment (or personnel) list. That's partly the fault, I think of the rather fractured actual events of 1914 - there wasn't one gigantic Battle of the Marne, rather a whole lot of encounters along the borders of Western Europe which came to collectively be called that first Battle. So the narrative does tend to jump around chronologically as well as geographically. Unfortunately that does make it sometimes feel like a bit of a difficult read to comprehend an overall viewpoint of what's happening through the book.
There are a few black and white photos in the book, and some maps of campaigns, which I found rather tricky to make sense of - they didn't seem either very clear, or very well reproduced for the most part.
While a very worthwhile book, this is not an engaging read, as another reviewer has already mentioned. This has not satisfied my search for knowledge on the early days of the War on the Western Front, and I will look for other works to bolster that search. I shall certainly be getting Tuchman's classics on the War to read, and a work by Robert Asprey on the First Battle of the Marne.