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To a limited number of history buffs "The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919" will have meaning. In my case, my grandfather was a participant in this interminable carnage. As you drive through any village down the length of Italy you will invariably see a monument in the central piazza to "I nostri caduti" "Our dead" from the first world war. And I mean EVERY hamlet no matter how small, some with just three or four names etched on a weathered monument.
Listening to this account of the unbelievable stupid military tactics and waste of human life in this lost part of the war has changed my viewpoint as I visit these towns and villages. I now always stop and carefully examine these forgotten memorials and read each name and imagine what their lives were like and the effect it had on their families and home towns.
Beside the engrossing account of the actual fighting, impossible terrain and weather conditions, the book gives insight into the growth of Italy into a nation state from an assortment of provinces. Men who could not even speak Italian, such as those from the islands of Sardinia and Sicily were mingled with a thousand sub cultures that made up the Italian mainland. It was the first time some people actually thought of themselves as belonging to the entity called Italy.
The author Mark Thompson does a creditable job gathering the facts and presents them in a smooth historical flow. The narration by Gerard Doyle could be warmer and with more dramatic effect but it will do as is.
The names and fates of all those preserved on those monuments are mostly forgotten as are the battles fought with almost no gain in territory or military accomplishment. I look at this work as an effort to acknowledge what they went through and suffered. I found this listen worthwhile and gave meaning to a lost corner of the first world war.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
THE WHITE WAR is an indispensable contribution to the study of the Italian experience of World War I. It is all the more valuable in that it is written in English and available on audio. I read it years ago and have given the book as a gift. All of use who have read it and have been impressed by Mark Thompson's straightforward style and immense research and recommended it to still more readers. I was delighted to see it become available on audio and highly recommend it to any who are interested in this neglected yet incredibly important conflict.
I've been obsessed with World War 1 from childhood, and also have a passion for Italian history. The focus of this book perhaps makes it a specialist's subject, although it certainly deserves a wide general readership. If you are not interested in the minutiae of Italian life, both at home and on the front, you might prefer to look elsewhere. But if you're like me and you devour such detail with relish, you might just love this book as much as I do. The characters, both honorable and reprehensible, and the experiences, will stay with me forever.
Apparently the narrator is an all or nothing proposition. I didn't mind him at all because he reminded me of another narrator I enjoy, Paul Panting. Furthermore, he didn't slaughter the Italian language. There are all too many narrators on audible who cannot pronounce their native English properly, far less another language, so for Gerard Doyle and others like him, I am truly grateful!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
An area of history I knew little about so I was pleased to find this book. The rather breathy, exclaimation style of the narrator was a bit off-putting though. It was as if he was narrating for a childrens book. Perhaps a bit of audio "proof reading" would have helped too - he said Australian instead of Austrian once or twice.
Well researched though, and recommended. I will Google some pictures of the mountain fighting to get an idea of what it looked like.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Like most in the English-speaking world I tend to think of the Great War as a conflict between the British/French and Germans in Flanders. The many other fronts get little coverage, so this book on the Italian war effort was a refreshing change. The book is far more than just a story of the campaign - it covers the politics in Rome and even the literary angle - while conforming to the popular format of including many private letters and diaries to give an impression of the experience of the ordinary soldier as well as the generals. I thought the balance between these elements was spot on, and worked well in portraying the horrors of the war itself and the wider political games being played. Thoroughly recommended.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful