8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
For hardcore military enthusiasts only,
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This review is from: Through German Eyes: The British and the Somme 1916 (Phoenix Press) (Paperback)
The idea of showing the Somme campaign from the point of view of the Germans is an important idea. However World War 1 is one of the areas of history where there is a glut of books because they sell well. This means that quality can be decidedly patchy as the publishers know the topic will do the selling rather than the merit of the book.
At this point I must point out that the most glowing review is written by Michael McCarthy who looking through his other reviews is obviously an expert on WW1 and WW2 and therefore he's presumably more interested in the data rather than quality of the writing because if you are a casual reader I assure this is not a well written book. I say this as our opinions have differed on other books too that I have found tiresome and he has loved. So if you agree with Mike- then buy the book, if you aren't so sure then read on.
It starts out promising enough but it takes a third of the book before it gets to the battle- a little too much build up perhaps? Also it is still very Britain centric as more is written about the German view of the Brits than about the Germans themselves. This is interesting for a while but you do wonder when is it going to end and surely with the title there could have been more on the Germans?
Come July 1st 1916 it rapidly turns into the worst sort of historical writing as you get lines like- the 6th battalion moved in an Easterly direction towards the schwartzenburgenfuhrer ridge. Ok I made the name up but that's only because I found the descriptions of combat so mind numbingly dull. There are moments of interest but again we get as many quotes from British sources as we do German- could I have my money back please that's not what I paid for. In good historical books a day's battle can be summarised, it's a myth that you must know what formation was where with how many men in it to understand what is going on. Get that from another source because it is little more than lists and certainly the first day of the Somme is very little more than massacre at the hands of rifle and machine gun it doesn't need that level of repetition and listing of division after division running up to the German lines only to be pushed back at horrendous cost. Interestingly that level of detail isn't sustained as the story does go on until November and gets better when you get incidents that highlight what's going on rather than the utterly dull detail on the first day.
The book is not terrible and the research is interesting as is the point of view of the Germans (when it's actually written about), it's just a missed opportunity and as for reading history for enjoyment or recreation this is a hard slog. One for the hard core fans of military history I think.
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