5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An incredible story that should have been told better,
This review is from: Silent Night: The Remarkable 1914 Christmas Truce (Hardcover)
For many people, the story of the World War 1 Christmas truce exists as myth or fable or a cheesy sequence in an 80's Paul McCartney pop video. This book reveals much of the truth of the evolution of the truce and ultimately of its quashing, but given the extraordinary circumstances and the potential significance of the truce, it fails to deliver sufficient punch and tends to drift into the realms of historical tedium.
The tone throughout the book is largely one of casual observation and much of the text suffers from a failure to report just how extreme the events and conditions were, though some passages convey considerable latent power - the account of the burying of corpses in no mans land suggests a kind of inhuman horror to which the soldiers of both sides had become so familiar that it can only be marvelled at, and there are touching moments of clarity and reflection in the contrasts between the peaceful soldiers and the single-minded warmongering of their remote generals.
However, the narrative is too frequently broken up by eye witness accounts and associated stories and satires that add little to the story, that it becomes difficult to read, which is a terrific shame as the story deserves to be told so much better. The book ends on a slightly surreal tone as the author appears to swallow an encyclopaedia of all 20th century social, political and industrial history and then enjoys coughing it up over the final 20 pages.
Overall, the book tells a fascinating story, but does not tell it well, and is likely to be enjoyed more by readers of historical factual reporting than those looking for a good read and some emotional involvement, for whom Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong has much more to offer.