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on 9 December 2012
As the author of Kindle's World War One: A Layman's Guide I am passionate about opening up the history of WW1 to more and more people, beyond the geeks and anoraks that read everything that is published. In my opinion, Lyn MacDonald is one of the very few writers that have managed to open up the subject of the First World War and make it accessible and enjoyable to a mainstream audience. How has she achieved this? By simply allowing the soldiers to tell the story. She resists the temptation to jump in and over-analyse scenarios and situations, instead, she takes a back seat and lets the veterans become the stars of the show. These old soldiers speak in simple language that is very easy to empathise with, and as such paint a vivid picture of what it was like for normal men, who had normal civilian lives, to be suddenly thrown into the trenches of the Ypres Salient during the second half of 1917. The way she sympathetically weaves their stories into her light narrative transports the reader directly into the trenches, and very quickly you are up to your knees in mud and dodging the shrapnel with these veterans. There are many books that have subsequently tried to replicate what MacDonald has done, but she is still one of the very best.
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on 2 May 2000
This book tell the story of Passchendaele not from the generals viuew but from that of the riflemen and junior officers who were tasked with making the impossible happen. Ms. MacDonald doesn't so much tell the story but rather lets the participants tell their own distinct stories. Ms. MacDonalds writing connects the pieces together. I have read many books about the 1914-18 War but Ms. MacDonald's work is amongst the best I have read. This is a book that all with an interest in warfare should read, without exception.
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on 9 August 2004
I first read this book with only an outline understanding of WW1 - my Grandfather fought, and was wounded, at Passchendaele.
This led to adult curiosity.
I never studied history at school, but this book brought home to me the importance of the subject - it's not about dates and places, it's about people, ordinary people like my Grandfather, who not only suffered, what to us now is, unimaginable hardship - trust me, you have to read this book to even begin to imagine - but many of whom, in fact far to many of whom, paid for the world in which we live today with their lives.
Are we too prepared to be counted in this way today ?
I have gone on to read all of Lyn McDonald's books on the First War, and would recommend that if you have even the slightest interest in not just the overall social and political landscape of the world during WW1, but more importantly want to actually know what it was like to have been in the front line - to hear the words of those who actually were there - then this, 'Somme' and Lyn McDonald's other books are not only compelling and compulsive, but almost compulsory !
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on 4 November 2006
I read this book a week after a trip round many of the places that feature in the book - which made it that much more "alive" for me (Quasimodo tours from Bruges - whom I'd also give 5 stars to if anyone is planning on something similar). But even without that the book is so well-written, interspersed with recollections from veterans, that I'd say this is one of the best, most sympathetic history books I've read. It's now nearly thirty years since it was published, and that so many of the people who contributed to the book must now no longer be with us just adds to the poignancy. This was the first of Lyn MacDonald's books I've read and I'll be reading more very soon.
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on 7 April 2013
I have read this book two or three times (first in paperback) and most recently on my Kindle (which I took on holiday with me to Northern France). This book is a worthy testament to the men who fought in this most terrible campaign. It is by turns shocking, terrifying, moving and even an inspirational read about a very important event in history involving the people who endured and suffered around Ypres in 1917. I have no criticism whatsoever of the book itself or the author (I have read several books written by Lyn MacDonald and they have all been impressive).

With this in mind it is truly a shame (in its proper sense) that the Kindle version is so poor. There are spelling mistakes and typographical errors on nearly every other page - on occasion I had to refer back to my old paperback copy to make sense of important passages. There really is no excuse for this poor rendition - especially concerning the very serious subject. It is almost as if the transfer was made by someone whose first language was not English and who relied only on a "spell checker"; unable to identify errors that the spell checker did not identify.

This is badly done Amazon, very badly done. You should sort this matter out straight away.
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on 14 August 2000
The reputed inevitability of the Passchendaele campaign has always remained an object of speculation. Was its timing justified in terms of strategy? Did "butcher" Haig set out to attain unrealistic territorial goals, believing that attrition had pushed German morale to the breaking point, thus living up to his nickname by risking unacceptable casualties in the vain prospect of delivering the final hammer blow to the enemy? And, had history taken a different course, would calling off the offensive at some point have been a realistic alternative? In her eloquent compilation of testimonies, Lyn Macdonald does not aspire to assess whatever was the contribution of Passchendaele to the eventual Allied victory. Following her in her brilliantly empathic approach - the one of the oral historian -, one wonders with the poor old sods what relentless higher power must have driven them on where there was no way left out of the hell ("Wading up to your armpits is difficult", is one of their blunt repartees) they found themselves in. Turning the pages, the reader cannot help but wonder at the unresolved questions that puzzled these men's battle-wearied minds: "Does the Army make you pay for the blanket it buries you in? Has your company been secretly chosen to be a suicide force?" and "Will the war be over by Christmas?" With an estimated toll of casualties of over a quarter of a million on either side and just over a year to go before finally the Armistice was attained, in our mind we wind our way again along the neatly plotted rows of 12,000 or so Portland headstones of "our" Tyne Cot Cemetery, towards the walls on which another 36,000-odd names testify to the missing for which the Menin Gate in nearby Ypres provided insufficient space. The sheer waste!
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on 12 April 2010
I've had this book for quite a while now but have only just got around to reading it. If i'd have known it was this good, i'd have put off reading everything else and concentrated on this.

I loved it. The human angle is very well covered in this book and this is so well interlaced with the tactical aspects of the Great War that it beggars belief. A joy to read.
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on 4 September 2010
My grandad fought at Passchendaele, but he died when I was too young to talk to him about it. Lyn MacDonald has done the job for me. It is impossible to really understand the hell that those young men went through just to gain a few miles of foreign earth, but reading the accounts of those who took part, so skillfully woven together by the author, gives you some insight into what it must have been like. I went to Passchendaele in 1989 and had a coffee with a lady who was born in the village before the war; when I make my return visit I shall take this book with me and read the relevant parts as I tour the battlefield.
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on 17 November 2008
I have for some time now become increasingly interested in WW1, it holds an appeal for me that is somewhat difficult to pin down exactly, but a significant part of my fascination stems from the fact it was a human tragedy of very real and very epic proportions that I can scarcely imagine the horrors of; and this is precisely what Lyn Macdonald captures so eloquently and forcefully in this excellent book.

Macdonald has crafted a gripping narrative of the third battle of Ypres that is deftly punctuated with recollections of the men who were there, around which she weaves a context to build the broader picture and place the events in a story that reads almost like a Hollywood blockbuster, though one never forgets that all this happened and Passchendael was very much hell on earth.

I highly recommend this book for those seeking a very human account of the battle and the people who lived and died in its folly.
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on 24 August 2002
The true story of the harrowing slaughter at Passchendaele, in the words of the very soldiers who were actually there.
The author, Lyn MacDonald, has done everyone a great service in interviewing these survivors and portraying their story to us all.
Stories of brave, terrified young men in appalling conditions.
Passchendaele is a name which represents the epitome of horror to anyone with a knowledge of the First World War.
As these aged survivors become less and less with each passing year, we cannot allow their experiences to be forgotten.
This book and others like it by Lyn MacDonald ('The Somme' & 'The Roses Of No Man's Land'), which concentrate on the real life experiences of the soldiers who did the fighting, are indispensable.
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