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I have spent the past three years reading everything I can get my hands on about world war one. Now that we are on the brink of the one hundredth anniversary of the Great War many new books are coming to market. “Catastrophe 1914” is one of them. In 1930 Sir Winston Churchill wrote “No part of the Great War compares in interest with its opening”. Max Hastings’s book addresses only the last six months of 1914. The book is well researched and Hastings draws on a wide range of documents and firsthand account to chronicle the events. The major strength of the book is how Hastings portrays the principal characters, not as stereotype but as real human beings with as many flaws as virtues. The author uses excellent narrative skill as he provides the wide-lens approach to the broad political and economical environment, but he also pays close attention to the details of his characters and their lives that makes for a human story. As you read the book you can see how the author rejects the long held academic theories about the war. He goes step by step and destroys the myths about the war’s beginning, and briefly destroys the theories about the consequence of the wars ending and also about what if German had won. Hasting sketches the steps by which Europe descended into war, he does not break new historiographical ground but rather skillfully outlines evidence by several generations of scholars into a readable narrative that is highly understandable to the lay reader. The author covers both the Western and Eastern fronts of the war as they were entirely different wars being fought at the same time. Hastings held me spellbound throughout the book. If you are interested in WWI history this is an excellent book to provide you with understanding and insight as well as wet your appetite for more. Simon Vance did an excellent job narrating the long book.
40 of 41 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Catastrophe 1914 the most enjoyable?
Hastings' handling of detail of soldiers' lives in the trenches, the tensions among politicians and military leaders, the personalities and shortcomings of military leaders and the local political and social contexts of the countries involved: Austria, Russia, Serbia, France, German and Great Britain. A truly formidable social, political and military history of the events leading up to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the first months of the war.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Catastrophe 1914?
The forays of individual soldiers carrying out incredible feats of bravery and later receiving medals.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Some parts are extremely painful, especially the detailed narratives of life in the trenches.
Any additional comments?
Max Hastings has written a fantastic and innovative history of a much researched period. Fans of European history will enjoy this book.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful