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Hew Strachan, more than most other authors on the First World War, gives a sense of its global involvement. The initial war in Serbia is described in some detail; the Eastern front gets almost as much attention as the Western front; the war in the Aegean consists of more than just Gallipoli; and there's a whole chapter devoted to the war in Africa. This is probably the best one-volume description of the military action of the war. Where Strachan falls short is in his evocation of the impact of the war on the soldiers fighting it: the mud, the despair, the endless shelling, the body parts blown out of the ground by fresh shelling. But in terms of what he set out to do, it's an outstanding account. The narration by Clive Chafer is serviceable but not particularly emotional.
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What would have made The First World War better?
The book tries to do too much for a single volume on WW1. The amount of detail on the war in Africa and the war at sea seems like a worthy endeavor, but in reality, just ends up being clumsily delivered. Those theaters of war are best served in volumes dedicated entirely to them. The book gets bogged down in details about fronts that are not essential for the understanding of the conflict while glossing over other details that are essential. All of this is forgivable, however, because once the book does tighten in on the real focal points of the war, it does get better, but even then, there are numerous other books that are simply better options (A World Undone, by G.J. Meyer; The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman; to name a couple of examples).
How could the performance have been better?
Clive Chafer has an utterly lifeless voice. Every single sentence has the EXACT same inflection and tone. It's like listening to an extremely stuffy British news man read headlines for days on end. It's not monotone, exactly, but it is so tonally repetitive that it begins to feel very monotone. Not good for late night drives. Unfortunately, also not good for the absorption of information.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Disappointment. The narration is pretty much a deal-breaker. The presentation of events is cluttered. The book is too unfocused. It's a slog to get through. As stated above, there are several clearly superior options.