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The Unknown Soldier: The Story Of The Missing Of The Great War Paperback – 1 Feb 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi; 1st Edition edition (1 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552149764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552149761
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The path that led me to become an author was a pretty rambling one. Along the highways, byways and frequent cul de sacs of a very chequered career, I've been a plasterer's mate, an ice-cream salesman, a holiday camp redcoat, an art gallery director, and simultaneously an art critic and a rugby commentator - now there's a combination you don't see every day. I've also been the editor of the drinker's bible, The Good Beer Guide, and the owner of the highest pub in Britain, and I've travelled round the world twice, edited an assortment of obscure magazines, made a couple of television films, been a radio broadcaster in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and written for newspapers around the world.

However, the world's longest adolescence finally had to come to an end one day and since then I've been pretty much a full-time author with around 50 published books to my name so far. Under my own name I write narrative non-fiction - popular history, though the sales figures suggest it's not quite as popular as I'd like it to be. I'm not a member of what you might call "the David Starkey School" of history, I'm less interested in kings, queens, prime ministers and generals than I am in what happens to ordinary people caught up in great events. I don't like "winner's history" either; I want to know the view from all sides of a conflict or issue and I'm as interested - and sometimes more interested - in the aftermath of great events than I am in the events themselves. Some of the best stuff I've written (in my opinion at least) really catches fire at the point where most other historians leave off, and that's as true, I think, of my book about the Spanish Armada "The Confident Hope of a Miracle", "The Dreadful Judgement" about the Great Fire of London, and The Custom of the Sea, as it is of "The Unknown Soldier", my book about the Unknowns buried in Westminster Abbey and at national shrines in Paris, Washington and all over the world.

My day-job is as a ghostwriter: a writer of other people's books for them. Clients have included a treasure diver, a kidnap negotiator, an explorer, a spy, a long-distance walker, a submariner, an England football coach, a cricketing legend, a controversial historian, an undercover investigator, an IRA informer, several travellers and adventurers, two fast-jet pilots and half a dozen SAS men. At various times I've also written screenplays, thrillers, short stories, a serious novel, a playscript for a musical, travel journalism, and book reviews. The one thing missing from my portfolio is poetry and believe me, there's a very good reason for that...

If you can still cope with yet more of me boasting about myself, my website is: http://www.neilhanson.co.uk

and my facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Neil-Hanson/456508287757319

and if you're still not sated, you can find the talk I gave about my book The Unknown Soldier at the Pritzker Military Library, Chicago at
http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/Home/Neil-Hanson.aspx

Product Description

Review

"'Neil Hanson's prose (has) an almost unbearable poignancy... A beautifully illustrated book that has all the sombre grandeur of the Beethoven funeral march" (Sunday Times)

"Of all the books I've read on WWI, this really brought home the experience. If I were to nominate a top pick, this would be it" (Publishing News)

"His researches yield an astonishing mine of information, which Hanson, a non-academic historian and an excellent writer, skilfully blends into an absorbing and consistently moving narrative framework.. fascinating" (Literary Review)

"'One of the best books I've read on the insanity of life in the trenches.'" (Daily Mail)

Book Description

This is the story of three soldiers: one British, one American and one German and how the grave of the unknown soldier and the ritual of Remembrance Day came to be.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Greenie on 5 April 2007
Format: Paperback
Of all the many books I own on the Great War, this one stands out a mile. It revolves around two soldiers and an airman and is based on surviving letters and family memories and brings the men back to life in a way that drags you in and involves you from page one. All three men have no known grave, and it is woven around the birth of the idea, and the choosing, of the Unknown Warrior who lies in Westminster Abbey.

It is an extremely poignant book, and it makes a refreshing change to be given an insight into the "enemy`s" side of the story, although the Germans never repatriated one of their own war dead.

An amazing book and well worth reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Matthews on 13 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title is (understandably) a misnomer, as the "unknowns" figure prominently in this excellent coverage of life as combatants in WW1. Covered from all sides - British, American and German - the narrative is based on diaries and letters of four different participants, and includes personal details the kind of which I have read nowhere else. Deeply researched and intimate, it is a wonderful record of life for the ordinary participants on all sides during the war which is highly recommended for anyone interested in this Hellish period of history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DTop on 26 April 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is must for anyone interested in World War I. The idea of taking a trio of men who were killed on the western front - one English, one German, one American - and following their military careers through the conflict, is a great one. We get to know the men concerned; and their different experiences help build up a picture of how the war evolved, the shocking body count rising inexorably to a level that must have been virtually unbearable. It is also deeply involving emotionally.
If there is a flaw, it is that Hanson, in order to make his points as forcefully as possible (often points aimed at the senior officers who prosecuted the war) sometime reports rumour as fact. For example, he states that some French mutineers were executed by being herded into a field and there blown to pieces by artillery. This story circulated at the time, but, as far as I can see, has never been substantiated.
A few such instances of carelessness, however, do little to diminish a wonderful and moving account of war at its most wasteful and appalling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Howard on 6 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
The title I've used for this review probably sums up everything one could say about this meticulously researched book. It follows the lives of three combatants - a German soldier, Paul Hub, an English soldier, Alec Reader, and an American pilot, George Seibold. Each of these young men fought and died in the 'war to end war' for simple reasons of duty, patriotism, adventure and because they had no perception of what carnage on an industrial scale would be like. But then why should they have known, no one else did; not the politicians who sent them, not the generals who led them and certainly not the ordinary people of their homelands who cheered them on. They each died in an instant and disappeared from the world without ceremony. They and millions like them. Neil Hanson writes with compassion, clarity and a grasp of detail unlike any other historian I've read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Great War Buff on 17 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
You may have read similar stories to those retold in the early chapters of this book, but persevere, because the second half of this work is superb.The burial of the "unknown soldier" is written with real feeling and anything that brings home to us a sense of the awful grief that the war engendered is most welcome. As a Great War enthusiast I sometimes get bogged down in the mud and wire of the Western Front but this book sets the whole war and it's massive human cost into a new perspective.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 14 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very fine book. WW1 is viewed through the eyes of three combatants, a german soldier a british soldier and an american airman as well as the story of the unknown warrior. One of the very best books I have ever read about the first world war.
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