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A good guide, but should be better
on 21 September 2009
Having made my first visit to Verdun last week I bought several books (okay, many) including "Walking Verdun" and "Fort Douaumont" by Christina Holstein (separate review for the latter). Both have considerable overlap, but Douaumont is for me more interesting. As the reviews here have noted she is an excellent companion for visiting and walking the battlefield.
I simply wish to make a comment to the publisher. While "Walking Verdun" is a little better, both books suffer from poor illustration; the maps, modern photographs and plans are dismal. A competent photographer with a wide-angle lens and high contrast film is required as is a graphic designer / illustrator. Certainly clearer - colour coded - plans for the forts (specifically Douaumont and Vaux) are essential. Embarrassingly, the Michelin Guide "Verdun - and the Battle for its Possession" published in 1919 has superior maps and better definition pictures. Some 90 years on with a basic PC / programme 'Pen and Sword' need to improve. It is not difficult to produce 3D contour maps which would go some way helping visualise the ground, which as others have said is difficult given the dense tree cover!
We, and no doubt Ms Holstein, should expect more. Illustrations, in particular maps, plans and diagrams are fascinating concisely transmitting the facts and feel of the battle. One example is Peter Barton's books on the Somme, Passchendaele and Beneath Flanders Fields which are superb. I see no reason - even if it adds a little to the price - why this book should not be significantly better.