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To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War

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To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War Cover

ISBN13: 9780345461346
ISBN10: 0345461347
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Jeff Shaara has enthralled readers with his New York Times bestselling novels set during the Civil War and the American Revolution. Now the acclaimed author turns to World War I, bringing to life the sweeping, emotional story of the war that devastated a generation and established America as a world power.

Spring 1916: the horror of a stalemate on Europe?s western front. France and Great Britain are on one side of the barbed wire, a fierce German army is on the other. Shaara opens the window onto the otherworldly tableau of trench warfare as seen through the eyes of a typical British soldier who experiences the bizarre and the horrible — a "Tommy" whose innocent youth is cast into the hell of a terrifying war.

In the skies, meanwhile, technology has provided a devastating new tool, the aeroplane, and with it a different kind of hero emerges — the flying ace. Soaring high above the chaos on the ground, these solitary knights duel in the splendor and terror of the skies, their courage and steel tested with every flight.

As the conflict stretches into its third year, a neutral America is goaded into war, its reluctant president, Woodrow Wilson, finally accepting the repeated challenges to his stance of nonalignment. Yet the Americans are woefully unprepared and ill equipped to enter a war that has become worldwide in scope. The responsibility is placed on the shoulders of General John "Blackjack" Pershing, and by mid-1917 the first wave of the American Expeditionary Force arrives in Europe. Encouraged by the bold spirit and strength of the untested Americans, the world waits to see if the tide of war can finally be turned.

From Blackjack Pershing to the Marine in the trenches, from the Red Baron to the American pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, To the Last Man is written with the moving vividness and accuracy that characterizes all of Shaara's work. This spellbinding new novel carries readers — the way only Shaara can — to the heart of one of the greatest conflicts in human history, and puts them face-to-face with the characters who made a lasting impact on the world.

Review:

"Moving on from the American Revolution and the Civil War, Shaara (The Glorious Cause, etc.) delivers an epic account of the American experience in WWI. As usual, he narrates from the perspective of actual historical figures, moving from the complexity of high-level politics and diplomacy to the romance of the air fight and the horrors of trench warfare. Gen. John J. 'Black Jack' Pershing commands all American forces in France in 1917 — 1918 and must prepare his army for a new kind of war while resisting French and British efforts to absorb his troops into their depleted, worn-out units. Two aviators, American Raoul Lufbery and German Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) fly primitive aircraft in an air war that introduces new ways to die. And Pvt. Roscoe Temple, U.S. Marine Corps, fights with rifle and bayonet in the mud and blood of Belleau Wood and the Argonne Forest. These men and a supporting cast of other real-life characters provide a gruesomely graphic portrayal of the brutality and folly of total war. Shaara's storytelling is occasionally mechanical — he has yet to rise to the Pulitzer Prize — winning level of his father, Michael Shaara (The Killer Angels, etc.) — but his descriptions of individual combat in the air and the mass slaughter on the ground are stark, vivid and gripping. He also offers compelling portraits of the politicians and generals whose strategies and decisions killed millions and left Europe a discontented wasteland. Forecast: Numbers-wise, this should match Shaara's previous efforts, helped along by a 12-city author tour and vigorous promotion." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Military novelist turns to WWI and fits its sprawling destruction into his usual flat template....Shaara's admittedly impressive command of the details serves less to illuminate a titanic struggle than to keep readers comfortably at a distance." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Shaara is at his best in describing scenes of battle. He presents the horror of trench warfare in gory but necessary detail....This is first-rate storytelling that aptly describes aspects of a conflict that continues to shape our world today." Booklist

Review:

"World War I was murder on an awesome scale, and its impact lives on today. Sadly, it is either minimally understood or totally forgotten — something this book may help correct. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"A gripping account of World War I — from tactics to strategy. The reader feels the horror of the trenches in France and is drawn into the maneuvering of political and military leaders on both sides of the battle. Jeff Shaara shows the dominance of the U.S. military in the context of coalition warfare — as relevant today as it was in 1918." General Tommy R. Franks

Review:

"A sweeping, searching look at World War I. Jeff Shaara's novel rings with authenticity, from the feelings of frontline soldiers to the challenges of high-level command." General Wesley Clark

Review:

"Jeff Shaara has again demonstrated that rarest of writing gifts, making literature read like history and history read like literature. He has now shone that talent on another era as he brings World War I to pulsating life." Joseph E. Persico, author of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour

Review:

"The best novel about the Great War since Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, which it greatly surpasses in depth, scope, and intensity....This account of how the war was really fought will be a real eye opener for anyone interested in historical fiction or modern history." John Mosier, author of The Myth of the Great War

Review:

"A riveting masterpiece revolving around the ghastly conflict that still profoundly defines the world we live in. With To the Last Man, Shaara cements his reputation as a war writer of Tolstoyan or Homeric dimensions." Steve Forbes

Review:

"Jeff Shaara's To the Last Man lets you live WWI in the air, in the mud, and in the councils of government in a way that makes you understand how the participants experienced it. Von Richtofen, Lufbery, Ludendorff, and Pershing come alive." Major General John S. Grinalds, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), President, The Citadel

Synopsis:

The author of The Glorious Cause tells the spellbinding and emotional story of World War I.

About the Author

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure — two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father's Pulitzer Prize?winning classic The Killer Angels. Jeff was born in 1952 into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Missoula, Montana. Visit the author online at www.JeffShaara.com.

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j.sterne, April 1, 2014 (view all comments by j.sterne)
To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara is a novel about the Great War, also known as World War I. Throughout the novel, Shaara attempts to capture the war and its devastation from each perspective of a soldier, ranging from men in the trenches, to generals, and to pilots of the deadly new aeroplanes. The plot recounts the fictional experiences of four actual men who took part in the conflict. To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara encapsulates the terrors of World War I from the viewpoint of each type of soldier that participated, and their experiences on the western front during the second most devastating conflict of all time.

The setting of To the Last Man is the western front of Europe during the years 1914-1918; the western front was the line that was held from the North Sea through Belgium, France, the western border of Germany, and to the border of Switzerland. Only for a brief time is the novel set in the eastern front of Russia. The characters include a Frenchman, Raoul Lufbery, a German, Manfred von Richthofen, and two Americans, John J. Pershing and Roscoe Temple. The experiences of three other minor characters are also discussed for one chapter each. The novel is broken up into four major sections, and then the sections are divided into chapters. Each chapter only covers one character at a time, and is written in chronological order. It is written in the present tense with a third person omniscient point-of-view.

Up until World War II, the Great War was the most devastating conflict in history, eradicating a generation of men. The war was sparked because of secret treaties, and the nationalist pride that each country had in their military. The war began in the summer of 1914 when the Austrian archduke was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. In response to this the Austrians looked to Kaiser Wilhelm and the German Empire. On August 4, 1914 the Germans marched into Belgium as the Austrians marched into Serbia. The world officially was at war. The First World War was highlighted by the advancements in technology and people not knowing how to handle them. Trenches were dug for miles with vast expanses of empty land in between. The result was 2.2 million casualties, and 5.1 million deaths.

Overall, the plot covers the combat experiences of the major characters over the course of the war. Immediately from the beginning the brutality of the war is brought into full effect as a British replacement is put on the front lines, “The ground in front of him erupted, a mass of earth and men, and he felt himself pushed back, rolling down, his face hitting the mud, the backpack lurched up over his shoulder. There was another great scream, another shell landing a few yards to his left, the ground under him rising up in one great gasp, then settling back down” (6). The characters Raoul Lufbery and Manfred von Richthofen become their countries’ most celebrated pilots. Lufbery is an extremely modest man and only wants “’To kill Germans”’ (32). While Richthofen does not lose focus even when he has been named the ace flyer of Germany, “You are not merely a pilot who kills the enemy, you are a tool, a weapon, an extension of the machine guns on your plane.” (154).

There are several major plot shifts that occur, one includes when Lufbery and Richthofen begin to lose almost all of their comrades within their squadrons. The morale of Lufbery is extremely damaged as he watches the original pilots from his squadron die. As the novel progresses, more and more of their fellow pilots and friends are blown out of the sky. On the other hand, the most significant plot shift in the entire novel is the entrance of American forces into the conflict on July 4, 1917. At this point, the introduction of the American characters of General John J. Pershing and Roscoe Temple can be seen. The events of these two men account for the unpreparedness of the United States to enter such a large global conflict, “and Pershing saw now that the Americans were not as precise, were having difficulty keeping the lines together, finding their place. The uniforms not as neat, wrinkled shirts, men in tired khaki and dull leathered boots,” (232); Temple is the only character in the novel that actually is fighting in the trenches. Temple’s encounters with the war display the brutality of trench warfare, “Temple put his foot on the German’s shoulder, pulled his own bayonet away. He stared at the man, the pistol still in the German’s hand. The man’s eyes were clenched shut, then opened slowly, dull and empty, the same vacant stare as he had seen on Dugan’s face,” (407). Pershing is the commanding officer of the entire American force in Europe, and serves as an example of the difficulties the U.S. had fielding a capable army. One of the final major plot shifts occurs when Richthofen is shot in the head and is unable to fly. Shortly after returning to combat he is shot down in April 1918. Lufbery is also killed when his motor is shot and engulfed in flames, burning him to death in his final descent to the ground. The novel concludes with Roscoe Temple’s homecoming in New York.

Throughout Shaara’s novel the overarching theme is the eradication of a generation of people. Death is visible for the reader as each character experiences the losses of their fellow soldiers. The sheer number of losses and casualties is significant, as entire companies and squadrons needed to be replaced. In the later years of the war, both sides were running out of capable bodied men to put in uniform. The intent of Shaara with this theme was to capture the war’s destruction and enhance the fact that entire towns of young and old men were destroyed. Shaara utilizes foreshadowing to allow the reader to better understand the fighting conditions for each soldier. Often times he will provide additional information about the current state of the war as a whole such as which side is winning, weather, the number of available reinforcements, and the morale of the soldiers. Foreshadowing forces the reader to not overlook small details that were important in each of the characters’ encounters with the enemy. Diction carries a heightened meaning of the war’s overarching theme by implementing destructive words. The diction includes word choices such as “erupted” (6), which establish a dejected and shell-shocked mood because the death surrounding the events is overwhelming. The point-of-view provides insight about the war itself. The reader is able to analyze all of the factors that went into a battle and how it resulted for the charcaters.

I believe To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara was a successful work of art. It recreates aspects of the war giving insight about what it would be like to fight from every level of the chain of command. Although the perspective of a European civilian would have better captured the true destructive essence of World War I, the novel completes the task of describing the brutality of the conflict as a man in uniform. The book will stay with me and remind me of the terrible losses of human life and the depletion of an entire generation of people in the second most devastating conflict of all time.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345461346
Subtitle:
A Novel of the First World War
Author:
Shaara, Jeff
Author:
Shaara, Jeff M.
Author:
Shaara, Jeffrey
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
War & Military
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
historical fiction;world war I novel;military fiction;20th century historical fiction;adventure fiction;war fiction;epic war fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
October 2004
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
14 MAPS IN TEXT
Pages:
672
Dimensions:
9.48x6.56x1.58 in. 2.08 lbs.

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To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War Used Hardcover
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Product details 672 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345461346 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Moving on from the American Revolution and the Civil War, Shaara (The Glorious Cause, etc.) delivers an epic account of the American experience in WWI. As usual, he narrates from the perspective of actual historical figures, moving from the complexity of high-level politics and diplomacy to the romance of the air fight and the horrors of trench warfare. Gen. John J. 'Black Jack' Pershing commands all American forces in France in 1917 — 1918 and must prepare his army for a new kind of war while resisting French and British efforts to absorb his troops into their depleted, worn-out units. Two aviators, American Raoul Lufbery and German Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) fly primitive aircraft in an air war that introduces new ways to die. And Pvt. Roscoe Temple, U.S. Marine Corps, fights with rifle and bayonet in the mud and blood of Belleau Wood and the Argonne Forest. These men and a supporting cast of other real-life characters provide a gruesomely graphic portrayal of the brutality and folly of total war. Shaara's storytelling is occasionally mechanical — he has yet to rise to the Pulitzer Prize — winning level of his father, Michael Shaara (The Killer Angels, etc.) — but his descriptions of individual combat in the air and the mass slaughter on the ground are stark, vivid and gripping. He also offers compelling portraits of the politicians and generals whose strategies and decisions killed millions and left Europe a discontented wasteland. Forecast: Numbers-wise, this should match Shaara's previous efforts, helped along by a 12-city author tour and vigorous promotion." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Military novelist turns to WWI and fits its sprawling destruction into his usual flat template....Shaara's admittedly impressive command of the details serves less to illuminate a titanic struggle than to keep readers comfortably at a distance."
"Review" by , "Shaara is at his best in describing scenes of battle. He presents the horror of trench warfare in gory but necessary detail....This is first-rate storytelling that aptly describes aspects of a conflict that continues to shape our world today."
"Review" by , "World War I was murder on an awesome scale, and its impact lives on today. Sadly, it is either minimally understood or totally forgotten — something this book may help correct. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "A gripping account of World War I — from tactics to strategy. The reader feels the horror of the trenches in France and is drawn into the maneuvering of political and military leaders on both sides of the battle. Jeff Shaara shows the dominance of the U.S. military in the context of coalition warfare — as relevant today as it was in 1918."
"Review" by , "A sweeping, searching look at World War I. Jeff Shaara's novel rings with authenticity, from the feelings of frontline soldiers to the challenges of high-level command."
"Review" by , "Jeff Shaara has again demonstrated that rarest of writing gifts, making literature read like history and history read like literature. He has now shone that talent on another era as he brings World War I to pulsating life." Joseph E. Persico, author of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour
"Review" by , "The best novel about the Great War since Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, which it greatly surpasses in depth, scope, and intensity....This account of how the war was really fought will be a real eye opener for anyone interested in historical fiction or modern history."
"Review" by , "A riveting masterpiece revolving around the ghastly conflict that still profoundly defines the world we live in. With To the Last Man, Shaara cements his reputation as a war writer of Tolstoyan or Homeric dimensions."
"Review" by , "Jeff Shaara's To the Last Man lets you live WWI in the air, in the mud, and in the councils of government in a way that makes you understand how the participants experienced it. Von Richtofen, Lufbery, Ludendorff, and Pershing come alive." Major General John S. Grinalds, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), President, The Citadel
"Synopsis" by , The author of The Glorious Cause tells the spellbinding and emotional story of World War I.
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