It's difficult to know where to start this review without charging into cliche! The trouble is this IS a vivid account of life at the time, and Merridale DOES paint a picture that is rich in detail. There is an amazing story here, on a scale that dwarfs anything that happened in the Western chapter of the Second World War. The numbers are, at times, overwhelming to the extent they cease to have meaning. 27 million dead in total, hundreds of thousands captured in a single battle with tens of thousands killed.. What helps to keep the tale focused are the eye witness accounts that have been collected. From letters from the dead and the lips of survivers, this brilliantly constructed book not only explains what happened in terms of the bigger picture of attacks and defence, of frounts and of fallbacks and in doing so it grants you moments of insight that go far beyond lines on a map.