Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A couple of books I highly reccomend

Just finished these titles and felt moved to share how much I enjoyed them and to recommend them. I have read several others recently, notably Redcoat and Marlborough (both by the late Richard Holmes), but these two stand out for me :

1812 Napoleon's March On Moscow by Adam Zamoyski
An exceptionally good read with lots of detail (often harrowing) of the Grand Armee and its advance into Russia and the grim reality of the battles and the fabled Retreat from Moscow. Lots of personal accounts  interspersed among the historical overview of events. I found it nicely balanced between stories from both the  French & her 'Allies' and their Russian opponents.
Gripping and highly readable.

Tommy The British Soldier On the Western Front by Richard Holmes
This is simply an astounding read which often had me close to or in tears at times. Much like 1812 its chocked full of personal accounts and anecdotes and brings home the grim reality of WWI warfare for the British Army on the Western Front (no coverage of Mid-East or Dardenelles). Great insight into the stresses and strains put onto the mainly Colonial army in early stages and its vast and rapid expansion and its change from a army of Regulars and volunteers into a massive Conscript citizen force. A nicely balanced, reasoned and objective approach to many highly subjective aspects, not least the 'Lions lead by Donkeys' quote (not exactly dispelled but certainly well diluted). Holmes covers just about every aspect of the soldiers lives you could think off and so many passages are full of such pathos, humour, horror and reality I found the book hard to put down. Maybe its my upbringing (full blown Ulsterman) and family connection to war (my great grandfather served and his three service medals hang proudly on my wall) but as I said above I found myself often deeply touched by some of the stories and wiping a tear or two aside (only Ken Touts excellent Tank has affected me similarly). Not a book to reveal the ebb and flow of great battles but very much a narrow focused worms eye view. I cannot recommend this one highly enough even if like me the  'appeal' of WWI was/is limited.
If 1812 is 10 out of 10 this scores 11 !!
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