on 19 April 2013
Last week Scott Addington very kindly sent me a copy of his new book World War One: a layman's guide, to review.
I was looking forward to this book because, whilst I have a real interest in the 1914-1918 war, I do find that some of the books that I've tackled assume a certain level of knowledge and can be quite heavy going. In his introduction, Scott acknowledges that a significant number of readers would like to know more about the conflict who find existing accounts inaccessible because they are `complicated/boring/dull/technical/long/heavy/difficult to understand' , and urges the reader to think of his book ` more like a conversation over a pint'.
This book comprises many short, well titled chapters, so whilst it is a fascinating read-through book in its own right, it is also really easy to dip in and out of to find something specific. I have to admit that I found the first chapter a little disconcerting, simply because it is so different to any other I've read - the writing style is informal from the start, and I worried that it would be irreverent; the first paragraph tells us about the alliance between France and Russia, and ends `If anything kicked off with either country, Germany would be facing a war on two fronts very quickly, which, let's be honest, was not an appealing prospect.' My concern was unfounded - I quickly got into the chat over a pint idea, and became absorbed in the book.
The chapters are broadly chronological, with diversions where appropriate to expand on different aspects of the war. The chapters on Bully Beef and Rats: life in the trenches, Metal Monsters: tanks and Mud are concerned with, and give a graphic introduction to, the daily discomforts of life at the front. Others look at the events leading up to the declaration of war, and some of the major offensives through to the Armistice of 1918. There is no place for the detail that you will find in some of the heavier tomes about the conflict, but this is a great, plain English, introduction to the war. I particularly liked the way that things were explained, and the fact that it is a relatively short book doesn't mean that there is any lack of information. Until now I had been somewhat confused over the terminology used as the British Army was expanded when the need for more men became apparent, but Scott's description makes it sound so straightforward! Similarly, though the battle descriptions are brief [a chapter is typically two or three pages] there is a wealth of information in terms of battle losses and artillery used.
The book ends, unsurprisingly, with a reference section. What a treat! Not for this man the staid old formatting of traditional referencing: Google is his main suggestion, followed by links to some cracking websites [most I use regularly, but a couple of new ones for me to try] then suggestions of further reading which this book will no doubt inspire in its readers. I took two sessions reading this book, the short chapters draw the reader on to see what happens next, and it is approaching the `unputdownable' category, but it will stay on the book shelf for dipping into as well, it is a superb introduction to the first world war, which would suit adults and young people alike. [And, for what it's worth, the author's tattoo is stunning!]
on 7 May 2014
This book does what it sets out to do. It is a very brief, very readable guide to the First World War that serves as a great introduction for people like myself who have no real idea of the history. It is a bit informal, and could be longer, but a good introduction.
on 28 November 2012
I'd never really taken alot of interest in the First World War, but with more media coverage building in the lead up to the 100th anniversary, it piqued my interest.
Addington's enthusiasm shines through constantly. He clearly knows his stuff, and his book does exactly 'what it says on the tin'.
Totally recommended if you're looking for an easy, informative read about one of the most significant events of the 20th Century!
on 3 December 2015
I'm grateful to this author. He's made it possible for me to finally get a detailed overview of this topic. I would never had understood WW1 in a complete albeit superficial way if it hadn't been for his desire to make the topic easy and accessible for the layman.
Prior to reading this book I'd seen the different battles and locations in bits and pieces: Verdun, Ypre, the Somme etc. Now I see how they all fit together.
on 9 June 2016
no nonsense, fact based and to the point, easy to read and understand. My only criticism is that the author does tend to subscribe to the Lions led by donkeys belief...but thats his prerogative...and ok he may have a point! I recommend this as a starting point for your journey into the fascinating horrendous story that is WW1
on 29 November 2012
Finally a history book that I have managed to read, understand, and actually enjoy! So many history books are tough going, but this one is actually quite an enjoyable read. Goes into just enough detail to get a decent understanding, but doesn't get bogged down in it all which is (in my opinon) a common failing of other history books. This is definitely a great introduction to the subject for someone who is perhaps reading about it for the first time.