It is simply an auditory tour de force as Arthur Morey reads Adam Hochschild's To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. Hochschild provides vivid and riveting descriptions of the world that lurched itself into World War I. Arthur Morey gives that world palpable energy as he voices empire proponents, socialist dissenters, xenophobic war supporters, radical suffragettes, and, most dramatically, soldiers on the various hellish battlefields.
Hochschild sets the scene for the cataclysm to come by beginning his work with Queen Victoria's elaborate Julbilee Celebration of her 60 years on the throne. It was 1897, England was at the height of imperial power, and the world was on the cusp of social change. There were growing movements for workers rights and women's suffrage, but also powerful, aristocratic colonialists whose assumptions included an accepted truth that non-whites could never rule themselves. Most damagingly, this point of view also never envisioned a world where the new weaponry of machine guns could or would ever be used against other Europeans. Such inventions were to be used against savages only.
Arthur Morey's reading of letters, speeches, and meeting notes gives Alfred Lord Milner, Sir (Gen.) John French, and Sir (Gen.) Douglas Haig an air of pomposity all three gentlemen exuded as they skillfully maneuvered from the Boer War to command posts in the French countryside and in English government. Milner was an unapologetic imperialist, while French and Haig were preposterous in their inability to acknowledge the horrendous, painful suffering on the part of the foot soldiers they so blithely put into harm's way. Morey skillfully voices the generals' preposterous sense that, no matter the amount of barbed wire, machine guns, flame throwers, or poison gas used by the Germans, a horse cavalry was still England's greatest strength.
Morey emphatically portrays the unique Pankhurst women, mother Emmeline, daughters Christabel and Sylvia, as they became more and more strident in their call for women's right to vote. Morey then deftly changes tone for Emmeline and Christabel when they became unabashed, jingoistic proponents of England's place in the war. Sylvia remained passionately committed to peace throughout the war and also to workers rights, to the needs of women and their children, and to England’s conscientious objectors. Morey gives extraordinary vocal force to the dynamo that was Emily Hobhouse, the archdeacon's daughter who could not be intimidated in her decades of work for peace and humanitarian treatment of women, children, and prisoners during wartime.
Interlaced throughout the book is the personal story of writer Rudyard Kipling, another clarion of unflagging support of the empire, whose tone became jaundiced and nativist once his own young son was killed. Morey has ample opportunity for verse, quoting not only Kipling but also the jaunty doggerel of Britain's Bantam Battalion, short in stature but incredibly courageous.
To End All Wars is a history lesson, to be sure. Through Arthur Morey the book comes alive with the emotion of secret lovers, the pathos of families whose young sons were killed, the explosive energy of workers who were finally feeling their power, and the horrific hell-on-earth that was trench warfare in World War I. Through Hochschild and Morey the listener is both mesmerized by the story and humbled by the sacrifices made by so many for ultimately, so little. Carole Chouinard