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To the Last Man: Spring, 1918 Paperback – 28 Oct 1999
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When Lyn Macdonald published her first World War I history, They Called It Passchendaele, in 1978, it had all the hallmarks of a labour of love. Six books later the project has become a debt of honour.
To The Last Man follows the usual Macdonald format. She relies on archival data to provide the skeleton of the narrative, and uses eyewitness accounts of veterans involved in the action to provide the flesh and blood. The result, as ever, is a compassionate and often disturbing account that brings the reader as close to understanding the minds of those who had to endure the mud, the snipers, the noise, the chaos, the boredom, the loneliness, the shelling, the bravery and the terror as we are likely to get.
Television and newspapers have only just discovered the power of the eyewitness foot soldier, having hitherto relied on self-serving politicians and generals for their history. However, the media has not learnt the difference between using the veterans' own words to make a producer or writer's point and allowing them to speak for themselves. Because she's been at it for so long and has had time to build relationships with the old soldiers, Macdonald has, and it is this that makes this book so special. She points out that we have become accustomed to talking of the "horrors" of World War I and to talking of the soldiers as "victims", but that none of the survivors ever used the word "horror" to describe their experiences and that to describe them as "victims" is demeaning. These men were not innocent dupes; they may have hated the war, despised their generals and been scared stiff, but they did believe in a cause and drew a sense of achievement from what they had endured.
. Macdonald has only one more book to write--that taking us to the end of the war. By the time it comes out there will almost certainly be no survivors left. I think that both Macdonald and the veterans would agree there is a poetic symmetry about that. --John Crace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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on 28 October 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Lyn Macdonald is in my limited opinion the best chronicler of WW1 amongst the numerous pretenders. Her research and attention to detail is phenomenal, but this alone would not be enough if the end product was dry and academic. It isn't, she writes in a compelling three dimensional style that allows you to absorb the factual history and engage with the personalities of the soldiers lives she recounts. Any of Lyn Macdonald's books is a guaranteed gem, and this one is no exception.
on 2 October 2000
Unfortunately I purchased this book prior to reading the preceding works.However,it prompted me to buy all the previous Lyn Macdonald books on the Great War.I have never experienced war,thank God,but these books have brought the horror and tragedy very close to home.Lyn has an unnerring eye for detail and her respect for both the men and women who lived and died through this most awful of wars is plain to see.This book,and the previous ones in the series are absolutely essential reads and should be a mainstay of any schools curriculam.....to get the point across not just about the futility of war but also about the everyday heroism of the ordinary person and the great sacrifices that were made to ensure that we live the way we do today.We have a huge debt to pay and sometimes we forget it.
on 25 March 1999
MacDonald has again produced a brilliant book detailing the huge German push in the Spring of 1918. As with her previous books MacDonald gives voice to the veterans of the battles and lets their words describe the events and their part in it. It is as harrowing a story as you will ever read but again the immense bravery and courage of the 'common soldier' shines through. The men who fought and died clearly believed in the cause for which they were ready to lay down their lives, something that the modern selfish generation will have a great deal of trouble believing or understanding. MacDonald's books are a tremendous tribute and testament to the generation of young men and women who fought in the Great War. MacDonald has ensured that 'We Shall Never Forget'.
on 3 July 2000
Lyn Macdonald has an excellent grasp of early 20th century history, a period that determined the course of Europe and the free world. You don't need film footage to picture the horrow of warfare when the descriptive the author uses put's you right there with the fighting men, on both sides. This book captures the strategy and the bloody reality of making it happen The bold attempt by the Germans to break the deadlock, the conviction of both sides that they were right. The mutual respect the soldiers had for each other, the minute by minute need to survive and at the same time kill or be killed reality of the butchery all around them. The soldiers story emerges with dignity, the realisation that both sets of combatants were mere porns in the hands of the politicians. Read the book, going to bed is easy, going to sleep is much more difficult. "To the Last Man" will make sure of that.
on 22 January 1999
As per Macdonalds previous Great War books, this is superb. Again, it is the detailed survivors accounts that leaves the greatest impression. This time, much of the perspective come from the German side which throws a very different light on commonly held understanding. In the end, we see two sides, both convinced that God was on their side, killing each other until the last man. Each side eventually appears to be as humaine (or not) as the other.
I suggest reading the whole series in chronological order.
I suggest reading the whole series in chronological order.
on 30 November 2001
With her painstaking review of written and oral evidence, Lyn Madcdonald has succeed in bringing home the experience of war in the early part of the 20th Century, and making it live for those fortunate enough never to have been tested by the call to arms.By seeing the western front through the eyes of the ordinary soldier, it puts into perspective the trials and tribulations of the 21st Century. As the last few Great War veterans finally pass away, such a record reminds us of the sacrifices of previous generations, and shows us that the soldiers of the Great War were not simply lambs led to the slaughter, but brave individuals who believed in the cause for which they were fighting. Might I suggest that Lyn Macdonald has honoured the British Tommy of 1914-1918 in much the same way as Stephen Ambrose has done with his painstaking interviews with the veterans of D-Day and its aftermath.
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Most recent customer reviews
Loved the book very much , which gives a tremendous insight of the Great War .
Even though I could only buy secondhand, still worth getting. A highly engaging book, very readable.Read more
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