Al's Reviews > The Guns of August

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
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's review
Jan 07, 2012

it was amazing
Read in January, 2012

This is great popular history, beautifully written, explaining with clarity the tenuous course of the first month of World War I. Published in the 1960's, it is a model of historical writing. Tuchman is/was the master of the telling human details which make for riveting reading, even when the basic events and outcome are known to the reader in advance. Here's an example. She is describing a dramatic moment in Belgium's history, when its young King Albert has come to his Parliament one hour after the German invasion of his country to rally his nation:

"The American Minister, describing the scene in his diary, tells how he watched the King's twelve-year-old heir in his sailor suit, listening with an absorbed face and eyes fixed on his father, and how he wondered, 'What are the thoughts in that boy's mind?' Almost as if he had been granted a glimpse into the future, Mr. Whitlock asked himself, 'Will this scene ever come back to him in after years? And how? When? Under what circumstances?' The boy in the sailor suit, as Leopold III, was to surrender in 1940 to another German invasion."

Such a simple detail reminding us of the link between two world wars and how history repeats itself. Highly recommended.

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