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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voices of the Lost Generation, 30 July 2008
This review is from: Forgotten Voices of the Great War: A New History of WWI in the Words of the Men and Women Who Were There (Forgotten Voices/the Great War) (Paperback)
Forgotten Voices of the Great War is a collection of real life experiences of the First World War, as told by the ordinary people who lived through it.
I must admit that my knowledge of the First World War is a little blank. My only previous experience of this period was through school lessons about trench warfare, or by watching Blackadder goes forth. Therefore I can't make an analysis about the historical accuracy of the book. But what I can say is that I found it a very powerful and poignant work.

The author, Max Arthur, has spent several years listening to thousands of recordings of the men and women who lived during this period. These tapes were kept as archival records in the Imperial War Museum, after they were collected in 1972. These are essentially the voices of a lost generation. The book is divided into chapters that cover every year of the war, from 1914 to 1918. Within these chapters are accounts taken from individual campaigns or battles such as Gallipoli, The Second Battle of Ypres, or the Battle of Mons.

Arthur has sifted through these records to bring out the most varied and unique stories. We are told about gas attacks, boredom or banter between soldiers, but we also get to hear the points of view of people like Elizabeth Owen, who was a schoolgirl at the outbreak of the war. Many of these stories are touching and funny, while others can be truly horrifying. In the section on Gallipoli for instance, we get a story of the games played between British and Turkish soldiers, with some of them throwing tinned bully beef and strings of figs to each other as presents. In the same section it also tells you of the horrible and undignified deaths caused by dysentry and other diseases, which will probably be some of the most terrible accounts of the war you will ever read.

This is an incredibly powerful and important book. If you have ever wondered about life during the First World War, then this book should be the first one you read. Extraordinay.
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