Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I: from the breakdown of diplomacy to the dramatic battles that occurred before the war bogged down in the trenches.
World War I immediately evokes images of the trenches: grinding, halting battles that sacrificed millions of lives for no territory or visible gain. Yet the first months of the war, from the German invasion of Belgium to the Marne to Ypres, were utterly different, full of advances and retreats, tactical maneuvering, and significant gains and losses. In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings re-creates this dramatic year, from the diplomatic crisis to the fighting in Belgium and France on the western front, and Serbia and Galicia to the east. He gives vivid accounts of the battles and frank assessments of generals and political leaders, and shows why it was inevitable that this first war among modern industrial nations could not produce a decisive victory, resulting in a war of attrition. Throughout we encounter high officials and average soldiers, as well as civilians on the home front, giving us a vivid portrait of how a continent became embroiled in a war that would change everything.
"Hastings's latest invites consideration as the best in his distinguished career, combining a perceptive analysis of the Great War's beginnings with a vivid account of the period from August to September of the titular year. Those were the months when illusions died alongside hundreds of thousands of people. Hastings (Inferno) considers Germany principally responsible for starting the war, asserting that German victory would have meant that 'freedom, justice and democracy would have paid a dreadful forfeit.' Hastings notes, 'Every society experienced successive waves of jubilation and dejection,' a condition shared by the generals and the politicians who found war easier to initiate than to resolve. He is particularly successful at reconstructing war-zone fiascoes from the perspectives of those who bore their brunt the soldiers on the frontlines. On the front lines, 'foolish excess of personal bravery' was juxtaposed with questions like, 'Won't the murdering soon stop?' While 'rape, pillage, and arson' were commonplace, 'new technologies created many opportunities and difficulties' but far more of the latter. The fighting around Ypres, Belgium, in October and November epitomized both the combatants' determination and their 'unbounded power to inflict loss and grief upon each other.' 'There was never a credible shortcut' to the suicide of a civilization. Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept. 25)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
MAX HASTINGS is the author of more than twenty books, most recently Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945. He has served as a foreign correspondent and as the editor of Britain's Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph. He has received numerous British Press Awards, including journalist of the year in 1982 and editor of the year in 1988. He lives outside London.