Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
Okay, but severely lacking in some areas.
on 28 October 2013
First of all, Mr Anderson's work is packed with detail and appears deeply and exhaustively researched, using plenty of primary sources (a rarity these days). This is a plus for me and you certainly get plenty of book for your money, no doubt about it. There are a few annoying spelling mistakes, which should have been picked up during proof reading, but nothing catastrophic.
Sadly there are also some obvious, and easily remedied, deficiencies that really should have been picked up well before publication. Hopefully if the title is ever reissued these will be sorted out.
First and foremost, there is a desperate lack of graphics which could and should have enhanced the text to aid understanding. A few tables showing the various OOB's (orders of battle) of each protagonist would have been extremely helpful and surely not beyond the powers of the writer. With the formations changing so much between each fighting season, I would have expected these as standard.
The few maps included look like a cheap route planner from ten years ago and do nothing to represent the ground fought over. They are monotone, confusing and messy, frankly looking like little more than confusing scribbles. I understand that colour maps for each chapter may have been prohibitively expensive, but plenty of books get around this with much better graphics.
Despite being a pamphlet by comparison, and a fraction of the RRP, the Ospreys title dealing with WW1 in East Africa manages to include plenty of OOB's and decent quality maps.
These two deficiencies, had they been included, would have helped to solve another issue, which is the densely droning style of writing. Obviously the subject matter is one that suggests a certain level of academia, yet it should also be a good read. It's not. It reads like a shopping list of events, blandly recorded in detail with no human interest or attempt to view the campaign through the eyes of the soldiers and civilians involved. I'm sure someone well versed in the campaign may have been able to pick through the unfamiliar place names and unit titles a lot more easily, but unless this book is aimed purely at historians then the rambling paragraphs really should have been tidied up during the editing stage.
It doesn't help that the writer keeps changing how he refers to units, from their nicknames, their operational titles and their official titles, with no explanation as to the changing terminology other than a rather tardy (and short) glossary right at the back.
I do have a pet hate, which is historians who cannot help but flood their books with their own personal bias regarding personalities and where fault lies. I could have made my own mind up given the events, without being spoon-fed someone else's opinion dressed as fact, but it's rare to read a historical text these days where this is not the case.
All in all, the book isn't terrible, I enjoyed the quick summary at the end of the book in particular, so certainly someone should consider buying this if they already have a few titles on the subject and want to pick up another viewpoint (the older I get the more I recognise the value of this). Unfortunately, it really is the forgotten front and choices on the subject are sorely limited, yet even so I would be looking elsewhere first.