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The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War Hardcover – 1 May 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070118793X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701187934
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 135,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A triumph… A marvellously absorbing book on the nature of one man’s political grievance and its terrible aftermath" (Ian Thomson Observer Books of the Year)

"The most imaginative and singular book on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War to date... This is expeditionary journalism at its best – a historical inquest radiated through the mind and experience of an outstanding reporter" (Robert Fox Evening Standard)

"A masterpiece of historical empathy and evocation... This book is a tour de force" (Christopher Clark Guardian)

"A fascinating study of one of those rare individuals whose act of violence changed the history of the world. An incisive, shrewd, wholly compelling investigation of an assassin’s life and times" (William Boyd)

"A fabulous book that all First World War historians will now have to take account of… Superb" (Saul David)

"A splendid book. It takes its place among classics of Balkan history" (Norman Stone)

"Tim Butcher goes from strength to strength. I enjoyed every paragraph" (Dervla Murphy)

"Insightful, useful and delightfully written… A great book – one to be recommended to professional and amateur historian alike" (General Sir David Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff)

"Lucid, passionate, urgent" (Rory MacLean)

"This is first class history and in a year swamped with First World War centenary books, it’s the one you should read first" (Andrew Roberts)

Book Description

A trek through the Balkans, an exploration of the life of an assassin (the teenager who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and so triggered the First World War), and a journey into the history of this complex and fascinating part of the world...

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Tim Butcher is the author of several books including the excellent 'Blood River'. He is a former journalist, historian and explorer. He is based in Cape Town. His latest book is about a man, an assassin, who provided the excuse for Austria and Germany to embroil mankind in a terrible world war. The author says in order to write this book he had to wade through 'a century of muddle and misinformation'.

Butcher shows how Princip, who was born on 13 July 1894, was an intelligent and focused South Slav who willingly gave his llife for the cause. He was born to a family that experienced extreme poverty. Revelations about Princip's education and motivation are remarkable and novel. A bright scholar, he began to absent himself from school on numerous occasions. As a result his grades plumeted.

The book is also an absorbing travelogue about the Balkans which the author knows very well. It has also a number of pertinent things to say about the recent Bosnian conflct and the appalling behaviour of Serbia. It is an easy book to read that clarifies very complex ethnic and political issues in a region racked by nationalism and related religious issiues.

We are currently being swamped by books on the Great War; this is one of the very few that should not be missed because it is based on new research instead of being yet another rehash of half-truths and myth. It is pleasing that Butcher does not, unlike three recent books, raise the old outdated question about whether the assassination caused the Great War. In the 24 years prior to 1914 there had been 11 assassinations of Kings, Presidents and the like in Europe and America, none of them led to war.
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Format: Hardcover
After all the puffs on the cover ("A fabulous book," "Lucid, passionate, urgent," "First class history" - this last from Andrew Roberts, as if he'd know), I was rather disappointed with The Trigger. The ostensible subject is an excellent one to explore and I was very keen to read about Princip after seeing the cell he was incarcerated in in the Theriesenstadt (Terezin) fortress.

But although there is some interesting material in Tim Butcher's book, this is greatly outweighed by all the stuff about him and his journey across Bosnia, which took up far too much space in the book and was rather boring into the bargain. I suppose the problem was that there just isn't enough about Princip to fill a book so it had to be padded out with descriptions of long walks as well as the more recent history of Bosnia: interesting in itself but covered far better elsewhere.

Butcher did uncover some genuinely interesting material: the meeting with Princip's family and the school reports, but inevitably in the circumstances there's great reliance on secondary sources.

There's also a problem over his treatment of ethnic divisions in Bosnia, now and then: at some points he revives the (false) "ancient ethnic hatreds" meme, at other points he questions it, and better editing might have reduced the confusion here. And another irritation: there are far too many Americanisms: Mom for Mum, downtown for town centre, casket for coffin etc. He may live in South Africa now, but he's British and worked in the UK for many years and these Americanisms really begin to grate after a while.

So, a study of Gavrilo Princip is a really interesting subject but there's not enough about him and far too much about Tim Butcher, so I think 3 stars is a fair marking.
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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Sept. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Subtitled, “The Hunt for Gavrilo Princip; The Assassin who Brought the World to War,” this is part biography, part history and part travel book. Indeed, it is written by Tim Butcher, who is probably best known for his travel writing and whose interest in Gavrilo Princip was first aroused when he was a young reporter in Serajevo during the Bosnian War in the 1990’s. He recalls how he witnessed locals using a stone building as a makeshift lavatory, only to discover they were desecrating a memorial to Princip’s assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Why, he wondered, were the people of Serajevo so dismissive of a man who fought for their freedom?

Many years later, the author decided to follow the trail from Princip’s home in a countryside now still dangerous from mines left over from the war, to the end of his life. During this book the author asks why WWI is still so important and looks at the impact on Princip’s actions on the history of the Bosnians, Serbs and Croats in the region. He questions whether the assassination was the spark that ignited the conflict and, on his journey, looks at the complicated history of the region as well as that of Princip’s himself.

This is a very interesting read; for many different reasons. I was fascinated by the story of Gavrilo Princip, which was at the heart of this book. A young boy – still a teenager – who left a countryside where life still followed an almost medieval pattern. A boy who had academic ambitions; who travelled to the city to study and who dropped out in 1911. In fact, three of the dropouts that year would become revolutionaries; the education system a breeding ground for radicalism. The story of this young man is still relevant today.
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