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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent new perspective and a stellar translation,
This book quite frankly deserves its 5 stars just for the translation job. At no point do you ever feel you're reading something that's been written in a different language and translated. It takes real skill to do this so well and so unobtrusively, so full marks to John Cullen for his work here - it's a pleasure to read.
There are some very, very trivial mis-steps, perhaps. Various British units are described as 'fusiliers', when in fact the units concerned are elite rifle-armed troops. This, I conjecture, may be a mistranslation from or a misuse in the original. It is the very easiest and most excusable of mistakes to make. The same word could be appropriated by different armies and made to mean something different in each, and 'fusilier' was. There were indeed "Royal Fusiliers" in the British army, but despite the title they didn't carry rifles. Confusingly, there were also fusiliers in the French and Prussian armies too, which were respectively bog-standard line and light infantry, also not armed with rifles....it is not surprising small errors like this creep in, but they do not detract from the result.
The structure is pleasing. Instead of chunky chapters dealing with a whole phase of the battle, the author breaks things down into much shorter episodes, so that the advance, repulse, countercharge and flight of d'Erlon's corps covers several chapters in succession, for example.
I only found one authorial error, relating to a friendly-fire incident, but otherwise Sr Barbero seemed to this reviewer to have his facts straight and in the right order.
Refreshingly free of nationalistic bias, this is both a very good readable starter account of the battle, but is also good if you have already read many others and want to focus on the events, rather than the later arguments about them.
A well-earned five stars by author and translator.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Military History as an Action Novel!,
This is certainly a well written book and a decent translation, although you'll have to forgive the odd discrepancy - the term 'Fusilier' is frequently used instead of 'infantry'.
As a primer, it doesn't have enough detailed maps, but you should be able to get by with the ones included. However, the author does give clear explanations of the arms and their roles and is quite explicit as to the location of various formations during the battle.
I didn't detect any significant bias - all nations were given a fair summary, which is a change from the now fashionable attempts to prove that the very few British troops who actually made it in time for the game were drunk, incompetent or cowardly and they were all Irish anyway. The German and Netherlands units aren't all hard done by, the Prussians aren't infallible supermen and the French aren't all Hollywood heroes making a last stand.
If you're a history buff and familiar with the battle or you're just curious, this is a very good read. It's not a seminal study and doesn't claim to be, but it does give a decent account of the battle and interesting insights into the main characters.
If you're thinking of buying it, do so: it's an entertaining read.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review,
Product The Battle book by Alessandro Barbero
Excellent move by move description of the battle which included what a French column was and its advantages and disadvantages, same for British line and difference between 2 deep and 4 deep line and why. Easily understood by layman. Same goes for other 'technical' points. Details here and there of personal experiences kept my interest, author is anything but dry. As always I would ideally like bigger maps with more detail, but again I did not buy a specialist £40 book.
Sent on time, excellent condition, full marks.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive account of the Battle of Waterloo,
This is an excellent and detailed account of the day of the Battle of Waterloo from all perspectives. That the author is Italian means he views the subject matter unencumbered by any nationalistic views or bias.
This is one of those books (like Shelby Foote's description of Gettysburg and Niall Barr writing about El Alamein) that people will read and then fully understand the battle and the experiences that those there went through. I very much hope that there will be more such books from this author.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Read,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Battle: A new history of the Battle of Waterloo (Hardcover)
This book is instructive as well as entertaining. The English edition is quite readable and as far as the translation is concerned all I can say is that I noticed no clunkers. I find the description of how the combatants conducted themselves as interesting as the command decisions. I never realized what a dog fight it was and how vicious the participants were.
Nothing is perfect and this edition has some weaknesses in my opinion. For one thing, there are insufficient maps. I was unable to find the important village of Plancenoit on the battle maps. This village is named in at least two chapter titles. More than that it would have been helpful to have maps of the battle area as it is discussed. The battle maps provided are just not in enough detail in my opinion.
The other thing I would have liked in this book is a list of the important commanders and their general role. I spent a lot of time trying to identify who was who, but then this is my first book on this great battle.
All in all this is a fine book and I am enjoying it immensely.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the battle, the Napoleonic wars or the history of the 1800's.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waterloo - the battlr,
Excellent. Well researched. Very comprehensive. Totally unbiased. For the first time I have been made aware of the contribution and extreme gallantry of the other European contingents in Wellington's army. The book also highlights the Prussian contribution to the victory. WAterloo was "a near run thing" and this book shos why in a way that no other work on this subject (that I have read) has done. If you are remotely interested in the battle of Waterloo buy this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A galloping good read,
Comprehensive and well laid out, The Battle really benefits from Barbero's use of short pithy chapters. Each is enjoyably punchy and succinct, and the large number, and rapid progress you can make through them, make for a galloping good read.
I'd have liked a glossary, 'cast list' and order of battle. Regarding the latter, he explains, as indeed do most recent writers on such subjects, that armies on the ground never matched their theoretical or 'paper' strengths. But even so, a concentrated listing of units and numbers involved (perhaps as an appendix?), even if approximate, would have made for a reference as handy, and to my mind as essential, as good maps. Talking of maps, the maps here are all grouped together near the front of the book, and are okay, although I've seen clearer/better. The inclusion of a portion of the Ferrari & Capitaine map, as used by Boney (and also the source for Wellington's maps), is a nice touch. There are also a good number of evocative illustrations.
There's an immense mount of interesting and indeed often exciting detail, as the concentrated carnage ebbs and flows along what remains an unusually contracted front, given the overall numbers that were involved at Waterloo. Barbero's writing is excellent, and he does a superb job of evoking the excitement of the battle, capturing it in all it's horrifying and gory glory. The grand scale of this intense battle is humanised by Barbero's liberal peppering of his narrative with piquant observations from participants, making for a gripping read.
I was glued to this book from start to finish, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I'd recommend it highly.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious yet brutal revision of the Waterloo campaign!,
I must agree with my learned colleagues, both here on Amazon and in the mainstream press, about the quality of this book. For me, it read as part novel and part history that just demanded a page turn and is comparable to Cornwall's fictional narrative.
One of the most impressive aspects about this book is the fluid writing style and Barbero's use of everyday English colloquialisms and slang. I am unsure whether this was an intentional decision on behalf of the author to modify the text for an English-speaking audience or it reflects Barbero's understandting of the English venacular (I hope the latter) but I would be interested in reading the original Italian text to compare styles (if only I could read Italian).
This book represents one of the more enlightened and balanced interpretations of Waterloo that does justice to all the nations involved in the fighting. Particularly so of the Prussians, whose detailed involvement was not clear to me from previous books on the subject(I refuse to read anything further by Hofschoer due to his blatent anti-British sentiment). This work's major point of differentiation is how Barbero focuses on the sheer brutality of the fight; the horrific injuries sustained; the bayoneting and looting of wounded conrades and enemy alike; the immense destruction of people, beasts and material, etc, etc. The impression given is totally at odds with histrionic and popularist view that Waterloo was an affair of gentlemen and a glorious one at that. To me this book was a real eye-opener and a stomach churner. For those realisation full credit must be given to the author who vividly brought to life a struggle of national suvival.
There isn't a lot to criticise about this work. Of course, there are a few errors in the translation, for example, "Inglish" instead of "English", one or two factual points of contention and the final two illustrations have their descriptions inverted. These are, however, minor especially if you compare this book to some native Enlgish language texts whose mistakes dwarf Barbero's worst crimes!
Overall, a highly recommended work!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant account on Waterloo,
Can't remember having read a book so fast due to not being able to put it down. Perfect balance between solid military history and an exciting captive narrative from start to finish. As a previous review mentioned it reads very much like Roy Adkins books from the same period. Had been avoiding this for a while as considering the amount of literature and legend about Waterloo there didn't seem much else to delve in to. But this is a great read and highly recommended, it's fresh, interesting and very enjoyable. Up there with Zamoyski's 1812 and the best books from the Napoleonic era.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 'impartial' account of History's great dust up,
This is an excellent, well-written and, crucially, impartial account of the Battle of Waterloo.
This is a well-trodden path, histories of the Battle, but Barbero manages to be fresh and original. I liked Hofstreor (something like that) and his provocative book - 'Waterloo - the German victory' - but this work has no such axe to grind. Barbero is Italian and, as there are no mystifyingly rendered translations, the work feels more solid as a result.
I have read an awful lot of books on Waterloo, but this one helped me with one thing in particular. Where were all the casualties coming from? There is a pretty linear history for most of us. Attack on Hougomont; D'Erlon's column; charge of the Scots Greys; French charges at our squares; Fall of Le Haye Sainte; Old Guard advance; 'Now Maitland, now's your time' - and the Old Guard breaks; end of battle. Bye bye Napoleon.
But this book talks about the never-ending contact, particularly between the skirmishers, in practically all areas of the battle. It also stresses how much Wellington reinforced the corridor to Hougomont, meaning that ammunition and reinforcements could be depolyed. This is a bit distant from the common view of 2,000 British muskets facing 12,000 of Napoleon's little brother.
The other aspect of the battle I found well described in this book was the fighting that almost invariably broke out when the Prussians encountered Wellington's army. Shocking, but undoubtedly true. There were good reasons why these 'allied' armies fought seperately.
Also the ferocity of the Prussian pursuit is graphically described. This was the action that reduced a defeated French army into a routed one. It is no over-statement to say it was the Prussian pursuit that ended the war.
All in all, an excellent, very readable account.
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The Battle: A new history of the Battle of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero (Hardcover - 9 Jun 2005)
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