The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916
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The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  1,069 ratings  ·  59 reviews
This book is more than a chronicle of the facts of battle. It is a profoundly moving, sympathetic study of the men who fought at Verdun, and it also shows that Verdun is a key to understanding the First World War--a key to the minds of those who waged it, to the traditions that bound them, and to the world that created them. Continuously in print for over thirty years, thi...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 388 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Penguin Books (first published 1962)
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Best Non-fiction War Books
85th out of 754 books — 926 voters
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Matt
About a month or so ago, I attended a theme party to celebrate a friend’s birthday. This was the third or fourth theme party I’d been to in the past twelve months. For whatever reason, as we get older, my social circle has decided that nights of raging drunkenness need some patina of class. Thus, the period costumes.

During the party – celebrating the speakeasy era of gangsters, flappers, and moonshine – we started planning other theme parties for the future. Mostly, this conversation consisted...more
happy
I found this a superb look at the iconic battle of World War I. In spite of being written appox. 50 yrs ago, Alistair Horne’s look a Verdun stands up extremely well. Mr. Horne looks at the battle from all levels, from the poor infantry soldier in mud to the highest general in his chateau.

In looking at the commanders, the German commander, Falkenhayn, comes off extremely poorly. He is presented as being overly cautious, overly secretive, excessively stingy with troops, having a flawed strategic...more
Geoff
On my recent trip to France, I stayed for a time in a village called Gigny, situated on a plateau of farmland where Upper Burgundy meets Champagne; a town of about 30 houses total, close-knit, yards cordoned off by tall stone walls overgrown with lilac and ivy. The entire countryside was dotted with similar clusters of ancient towns, each of them radiating from a small square dominated by a church bearing dates of construction beginning in the fifteen or sixteen hundreds. The roads connecting th...more
Buck
Some selfish but ultimately healthy mechanism insulates us—most of us, most of the time—from life's horrors. Without a mental carapace to protect us from the sheer awfulness of things, we’d be reduced to masses of quivering, suicidal jelly before we even got out of bed. Take this humdrum little factoid: a quarter of a million men died in the Battle of Verdun. A quarter of a million. The mind refuses to assimilate such a statistic. Sure, you can understand it, but its full significance doesn’t re...more
Eric
Usually I just breeze through military history, but this was very affecting. Horne has that novelistic eye for the pathos of everything human--for even something as dry-sounding as the fluctuations of French army tactical doctrine 1870-1940. Horne shows you the sadness and helplessness behind the old cliche, 'generals are always fighting the last war.' The French army is bottled up and surrounded in fortress towns like Sedan and Metz by the Prussians in 1870--so in the years between then and 191...more
A.L. Sowards
This was my first WWI battle-level book and it was very informative. Sad, too, because Verdun is among the worst battles in history. (Horne makes the case that it is the worst battle in history, even worse than Stalingrad, and he might be right.)

Faced with stalemate on the Western Front, Falkenhayn, German chief of staff, came up with a plan to bleed the French army white. He would attack a target they had to defend, like the forts in front of Verdun, and then let attrition take its toll. There...more
'Aussie Rick'



This is a classical piece of military history, well written and presented. This would be the best book that you'll find covering the terrible slaughter that is known as 'Verdun' during WWI. The author is one of the best English authors who covers French history and he writes his stories well. Take the time to read this book you wont be disappointed!
Brendan Hodge
Alistair Horne's detailed history of the nearly year-long battle of Verdun is both exhaustive and human in its detail -- much like his A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962 which I read and very much liked last year. Most importantly, Horne does a good job of going beyond the too-easy (especially with WW1) tack of portraying the horrors of the battlefield and contextualizes Verdun in the French national self understanding. Price of Glory is part of a loose trilogy, which also includes The Fa...more
Mikey B.
This is a searing account of the battle of Verdun. The relentlessness and remorselessness of battle are illustrated in this book. The battle - meaning the killings, became self-perpetuating. It was only Petain on the French side who was able to "slow" this murderous momentum. The Germans introduced phosgene gas to increase the attrition.

As the author suggests Verdun may be a reason for the French collapse in 1940. The soldiers were not fighting each other, but were fighting artillery - and were...more
Andrew Ssempala
Huh! I had never read a complete story about war when I first read this book in mid 2000. I shall never forget the name of the man who wrote this book. Its simply one of the very best books I ever read. It revealed to me that even though the weapons used in the World War I were not as lethal as what we saw in the next war, still the ferocity was maddening. That infamous standoff at Verdun between the arnies of France and Germany will remain one of the greyyest description of war in my mind. The...more
Mike Grady
Excellent read on one of WWI's major battles. The author captures both the epic scale of the battle as well as the horrible conditions for the individual soldier. There is also an afterword as well as an epilogue to illustrate the impact that the the battle and key players had on the Second World War. Fascinating.

For me, the only draw back was that while the author provides several quotes in French, he does not provide an interpretation.

Recommended for those interested in either the First World...more
R.M. Byrd
This book is, of course, the classic book of the battle. I read it as preparation to a trip to Verdun when I was living in Switzerland and it gave me what I think was a good basic insight into the reasons the battle was fought and the extraordinary things that went on, as well as the tragic mistakes that were made. The story of 'The Sacred Way' (the sole road leading in and out of Verdun for supplies), the trench of the bayonets (where soldiers waiting to go 'over the top' were literally buried...more
Al
Good book on the Verdun campaign. Very compelling read. It left me angry at the arrogance and blindness of British and French military leaders. Horne gives both sides of the story, and his German vignettes are compelling.
JR
"On the Right Bank several gullies were dubbed, with good cause, 'La Ravine de la Mort' by the French. Such a one, though most of it in French hands, was enfiladed by a German machine gun at each end, which exacted a deadly toll. Day after day the German heavies pounded the corpses of this gully, until they were quartered, and re-quartered; to one eye witness it seemed as if t were filled with dismembered limbs that no one could or would bury. Even when buried."

The Battle of Verdun lasted ten mo...more
G.d. Brennan
If you want to understand World War I, this book about the battle of Verdun is a must-read.

A history professor once told me that World War I, the French Revolution, and the U.S. Constitution had inspired more history than any other events or episodes. World War I exhausted Europe; at the outset, its armies, navies and colonies held dominion over much of the globe, but at the end it was a pauper continent, with both victors and vanquished shattered by deaths and debts, reparations and revolutions...more
James Dalziel
Over forty years old and I haven't read a better book on the First World War, in fact not many better history books full stop. The author manages a very good mixture of all aspects of the battle: The generals plans, the soldiers tales and the dramatic events all get a fair hearing and are so well told as to keep ones attention at all times. Scrupulously fair to both sides and a clear analysis of the outcome.
Tyler Lees
To explain the bloodshed of the twentieth century, Alistair Horne undertook to view them through the prism of th relationship between France and Germany, culminating in a trilogy: The Fall of Paris, The Price of Glory, and To Lose a Battle.

In The Price of Glory, Horne explains how defeat in the Franco-Prussian war shaped France prior to World War One, and the key battle for France at Verdun, and how the outcome at Verdun would shape the decades to come. At Verdun, Germany would waste away its be...more
Bob Daugherty
Despite the age of this book it still remains a classic of WW1. Horne's ability to describe a character in single a paragraph is exceptional among historians. Admittedly it does get a bit repetitive towards the end as the carnage continues and continues (but so did the real battle!) The last view pages nearly brings the reader to tears as he discusses the fate of so many survivors of Verdun and of the battlefield it's self. Some may disagree with Horne's conclusion that the Battle permanently sc...more
Gail Kirby
This is a detailed, although readable presentation of the battle of Verdun which consumed the entire year of 1916 during WW1. I especially like Alistair Horne's style, although it's definitely not to everyone liking (my daughter, a linguist, cannot read anything he's done.) I feel the individual players are fairly represented, especially with regard to their foibles, and the errors and missed opportunities in the battles are presented without exaggeration (either "pro" Britain or "anti" German/F...more
Sandra
A very good and engaging explanation of Verdun, the lead up to battle, the movements therein (what there were of them - it seems like a lot of land being turned over when you read, but one must remind one's self that the limited to-and-fro occured over a period of TEN months), and the causes for its eventual winding down. My sole complaint would be that, while Alistair Horne has an extremely readable style, occasionally the Franco-centric (did I make that word up?) nature of his special studies...more
Jan
Impassionate and comprehensive account that provides a board context and a detailed insight into this unmitigated folly anne tragedy
John
May 02, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: WW1 enthusiasts
If you only ever want to read about one specific battle of the Great War [already believing that you know the gist of what happened] then this book is for you. it is superbly detailed, yet sometimes over-biased to the French. It details the whole of this terrible/bloody battle and relives the horrors that many of us are all too familiar with.

As a visitor to the battlefields surrounding Verdun I can honestly say that this book is not only an excellent narrative, but also a fantastic guide.
Ben
So I think I know more French than most people who don't speak French. Admittedly, my German is now limited to saying "I'm sorry. I don't speak German." Horne left a lot of French and German in here. Entire quotes were left untranslated. My copy was printed in the 1960's and "For copyright reasons this edition is not for sale in the U.S.A." I haven't checked newer printings to see if more is translated... so basically, this review is useless to everyone. That said, this was a pretty solid book.
Tami
took me weeks to really "get into" this book, not knowing German or French (quotes often in these languages) and not really understanding the military or political players in the WW1 stage. however, sticking with it, the book was fascinating! The behavior and activities of both the Allies and the Germans read like an action fiction.


for a non-history buff to want to go in to read more of A. Hornes writing is a statement to his method of untangling a complex, horrific battle.
Paul
By far the most accessible and evocative book written on the battle of Verdun. Horne is a superlative writer of history.
The book has some flaws however--many of his portrayals of German characters involved are somewhat simplistic and at time inaccurate. As history the book is a bit dated--Horne had no access to the German military records returned to the West in 1990, and these shed much more light onto the battle.
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
I was 15 when I read this book and it had a powerful impact on me. The battle of Verdun was the greatest blood-letting of the First world war and Alistair Horne's telling of it is just as rich today as it was almost 40 years ago! I love history that goes right to the source and quotes the letters and diaries of those who experienced it - it is the closest we will ever get to a true surrogate experience.
Jim
Dec 01, 2013 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
This is an excellent book about an extraordinary battle between the French and Germans at the fortress town of Verdun and surrounding area. It describes the ten-month battle in which a total of 750,000 casualties were incurred. It is well researched with insights into the commanders and the foot soldiers. It shows the strengths, weaknesses, and ambitions of all involved. Truly a book for history buffs!
Joel
Okay, okay! WWI was horrible, we get it!
Seriously though, too much of what is available for sale on the subject of WWI is overarching, and tries to cover far too much. That's why Alistair Horne's story of the battle of Verdun is so effective. Using a single, albeit enormous and lengthy, battle to explore the whole war is powerful, moving, occasionally too detail oriented, but all in all, fascinating.
Antonio Yaniz
Dec 10, 2007 Antonio Yaniz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: WWI Readers
Another masterpiece from Welsh-born, French Historian Alistair Horne. He writes these historical accounts in such an engrossing narrative style that you might think you are reading fiction. The description of the cauldron that was Verdun is such that you feel you were witness to one of the largest battles ever fought. Three quarters of a million men fell on this most hallowed ground.
Frank Roberts
Very accessible, fascinating history of one of history's key battles--Verdun, the 10-month slaughter that took the lives of 700,000 men--French and German.

The author assumes a certain level of knowledge of English, French, and German history, especially of the 19th and 20th centuries. I'm pretty well-read, but still needed to turn to Google for some references.
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Alistair Horne is a preeminent historian, journalist and Oxford fellow who has written seventeen books, many of them on the military history of France.He has won the following awards: Hawthornden Prize, 1963, for The Price of Glory; Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize and Wolfson Literary Award, both 1978, both for A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962; French Légion d'Honneur, 1993, for work...more
More about Alistair Horne...
Seven Ages of Paris A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962 To Lose a Battle: France 1940 The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71 La Belle France

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