I just finished reading 100 Days to Victory and I really enjoyed it. Saul David picks 100 days over the course of the first world war which led to the ultimate victory for the Entente in 1918. He uses his own personal family history - telling the stories of his great uncles who fought in the war, which I found really moving. He also uses the diaries of Vera Brittain to tell the story from a female perspective and to describe the feelings of those left behind at the home front. As well as going into a lot of detail about the battles and military strategies on the Western Front, David looks at the breakdown of the Russian monarchy, the action in Gallipoli, and the input of various regiments imported in from the British Empire, which I found really interesting. He writes in an accessible style, capturing the emotional side of the war without compromising on historical accuracy or objective narration. There are a lot of books on WW1 out at the moment but this is one that shouldn't be missed.
A concise yet also elegantly written book on First World War. Was given book as present and found myself turning pages straightaway. Book covers a host of aspects and angles of war, dealing with the grand narrative of the campaign and also the more intimate, minor stories away from trenches. There are plenty of testimonies from commanders and frontline soldiers alike. There are also some excellent mini essays prefacing each year in terms of where all the major players stood at the time. It's doubtful that every reader will be interested in every facet - or day - of book but most people will be engaged by a majority of what the author has to say. David writes with a judicious eye in regards to the military history of the war, but just as importantly the book possesses a sense of sympathy and humanity.
A panoramic book on The Great War, told with insight and style. 100 Days to Victory encompasses the military history of the First World War, as well as other subjects (including the Home Front, diplomatic failings, espionage etc). The author constantly returns the drama and suffering of the soldiers on the front however and it is a credit to David's writing that he provides both narrative and argument in each of his well crafted chapters. Some may find the book too Anglo-centric and not all the chapters are as strong as each other but for the most part readers, whether experts of the conflict or those coming to it for the first time, should find 100 Days to Victory to be both enjoyable and enlightening.
Deserves all its critical and commercial success, a superb read above all. However familiar you might be with the story of the Great War, you will find fresh stories and insights here. Above all, I came away with the impression of how truly global and varied a conflict it was. In each section Saul David brilliantly zooms from the particular and personal to the bigger picture and back again, giving at once emotional punch and strategic overview. Very cleverly done, without you really noticing - truly accomplished popular history writing. Each section stands alone, but each makes you want to press on to the next. Thoroughly recommended. I couldn't put it down.
I bought this book having attended a lecture from the author which was clear and interesting as anyone familiar with his TV work would expect. He was also charming and polite afterwards with all the people queuing up buy copies of his books. And the book is consistent with those impressions - clear, slightly provotive but steering clear of outright controversy, highly accessible but unable to avoid the feeling that it has been rushed. My immediate impression was a comparison to those "100 best" compilations on TV from which you cannot quite manage to tear yourself away, thinking at each stage of the countdown that this will be the last one you watch. So it is compelling and an easy read but relies heavily on a limited number of references and, indeed, very heavily on recent secondary sources. No-one could say this is breaking new ground in this controversial historiography of this pivotal conflict; instead it attempts to communicate in compact synopses the views of other historians. The grapes of Gary Sheffield and others have been distilled for the casual drinker without the curiosty of the experienced drinker. On balance I lean to the views of this wing of historians as they revise the traditional views the British and, I think, Commonwealth public have viewed the war for decades and I think David's more balanced position often more convincing than that adopted by others, such as Sheffield, even though I regularly refer back to his "Lost Victories" book for reference. The accounts of his family are very welcome particularly when they relate to important dates such as the Second Battle of Ypres. Having said that, I think his excellent explanation of the Turkish treatment of the Armenians concluded rather abruptly - fault of editing surely, rather than avoidance of a controversial conclusion. Of course you constantly wonder about the choice of dates. I personally would not have picked 3 for the disastrous Mesopotania campaign but picked far more for 1918, surely the key year - so far more than 2 from August to the Armistice in Northern France. A tally shows 1914 - 19 1915 - 21 1918 - 18 1917 - 22 1918 - 18 So could we conclude that 1917 and 1915 were the most important years? I am not sure, but thought-provoking nevertheless. You will also notice that this table only adds to 98, because he repeats 1st July 1916 from 3 perspectives. And, yes, as other reviewers write the book has been compiled from a British and Empire perspective but I think he provides enough variety and width. I would only suggest that I would have added one date from a Central Power persective: related to the economic and blockade perspective - surely the key "theatre" they lost. I would also add a date demonstrating the fact that the British learnt and applied lessons from their early heavy set-backs. That is surely key to the arguments of the revisionists and I think they (and I include David in this camp) would benefit from paying more attention to this aspect. It is worth pointing out that he inserts some dates of events that are more eye-catching than strategically important - Mata Hari, Edith Cavell and a PoW breakout are examples.
And to the point it was rushed - the only primary sources are family members, from compilations and the excellent Testament of Youth. Good choices, but surely not the results of hours of work. I would have added more cross-references between dates, for example the early references to Hitler's war time experiences did not reappears. Also there are some silly errors would should have been corrected including: 29th August 1914 - "defend East Prussia against the Prussians" 29th April 1916 - first footnote is "ibid" so from a book about the Easter uprising?
Finally David's style raises the question of heroes and villians, certainly on the Allied side. Amongest the latter Wilson appears naive and manipulated, French distrusting, Asquith out of his depth, the commanders at Gallipoli, and the worst of the lot - Nivelle. Heroes - British junior officers, the unsung brave Russians who took Erzerum, Brusilov, British tank crews and of course Commonwealth soliders.
This book is different from any book about WW1,(or WW2),that I have read, (and I have read many). It is not a timeline of the battles fought; of the strategies and tactics deployed; of the new machinery developed to kill the enemy in this new form of warfare. It is, rather, a collection of "bite-sized" chunks covering all aspects of the whole conflict. It is the kind of book one can dip into at any time. It contains much material which I did not know. It must be of interest to those who already have knowledge of the War. It will be a fine introduction to the War to those people who know only a little, and who are perhaps wanting to learn more about the conflict which changed the world one hundred years ago. Having read this book, they can better understand the people who lived through it, both combatant and non-combatant, and then read further. The book should be in every school library.
This was a brilliant read, and the other 4/5 star reviews cover why, but there was a desperate need for a map of the continent plus the Middle East. It would also have been better to group all the maps together in one place, as the same regions are referred to disparately throughout the text, and it is hard to keep finding the necessary map buried half way through the book. Nevertheless, this is a common problem and the book overall was excellent and highly readable.
As a Battlefield Guide on the WWI battlefields, I am an avid reader of books about The Great War. This book by Saul David is excellent. He writes short chapters on well known and not so well known subjects and I have learnt a lot from his book. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in finding out about WWI, without getting bogged down in too many facts and far too much detail.
This book had, as the author tells us in his 'epilogue', a curious origin. He proposed writing a day by day account of the events between the Sarajevo murder and the outbreak of war, but his publisher wanted him to cover the whole war. The result is an account of 100 days, not consecutive but spread out over the four years of the war. Some of the days extend beyone a single one, and in virtually every case something is said of the aftermath. The result is a book that does indeed cover the whole war, but in short sections easy for the reader, and with a great wealth of telling detail. The author is particularly good at narrating complex military action.
The publisher asked for an account 'from the perspective of all the belligerents', but this is not provided. The book is heavily British-based. The Russian and Italian fronts are treated adequately, but we hear very little of the war from the French and German perspectives. As cause or effect of this, the writer's bibliography includes not a single book that is not in English.
The mixture of different theatres of the war gives a very balanced overview. Other books concentrate on specific elements while this one begins with the best exposition I have ever read about the background to Sarajevo and what happened next. Very digestible and a great read in a comfortable style, unpretentious and direct.