on 6 July 2014
I picked this book up in Edinburgh, at the National Library, where there's an excellent exhibition about WW1. It is ideal for those of us who have read about WW1 ages ago and just want a quick catch up in view of the 100 year anniversary. I would much rather read this than all the stuff being churned out by newspapers.
I really enjoyed this book and read it over scores of other tomes that sit by my bed waiting for attention. It's gripping and original (and blessedly concise) and based on a series of personal accounts. There are a couple of gut wrenching accounts of life in the trenches but there's no sentimentality and that's a blessing.
These are followed a series of short testimonials from a naval officer in the Battle of Jutland, a pilot in the first days of the air force and a Scottish nurse who was trying to help our allies on the Eastern Front, in Romania. They all offer different, but fascinating, insights into WW1, although none wander into the trap of trying to explain the whole thing from a political angle.
The style is simple, easy to read and aimed at kids -- which makes it ideal for adults too -- and the author describes how he collected these stories at the end of the book: "I've used a range of sources. These include unpublished diaries, memoirs, letters, records, drawings, diagrams and photographs, as well as published articles, books, records, maps, online archives and museum artefacts."
Mr Burnett must have studied thousands of pages of material to come up with 124 pages of crystal clear prose.