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Gossip from the Forest

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In November 1918, in a railway carriage in a forest near Paris, six men meet to negotiate an end to the terrible slaughter of the First World War. Threatened by famine and anarchy at home, the Germans struggle to mitigate the punishing terms offered by the Allies. But both sides are torn by battle exhaustion and a confusion that far exceed their national differences. In th ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 1st 1989 by Sceptre (first published January 1st 1975)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was shortlisted for the 1975 Booker prize and could be seen as a sort of companion piece or precursor for Keneally's Booker winner Schindler's Ark. Both are historical fiction in which the fiction serves mainly to fill in gaps in the historical record and to understand the motives of the protagonists.

The events in this book occurred almost exactly 100 years ago, so I have no doubt that we will hear much more about them over the next few days.

Its protagonists are the negotiators that si
Gumble's Yard
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-mookse, 2018
I read this book as part of the 2019 Mookse Madness tournament.

The book is an imagined account of the signing of the Armisitice which ended the Great War on 11th November 1918. I have read many excellent books in 2014 on the events leading up to the outbreak of that war – not least Christopher Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers”, most of which – but have not found any books this year on the Armistice, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across this non-fictional treatment.

The book concentrates on a ret
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booker
"..though it took millions of men to fight a war, a few car-loads of delegates can end it"

In the momentousness of history, it is easy to forget that the people who are immortalized in it's annals are, just people. What would be the circumstances, beliefs, motivations, environment and emotions of these men who are negotiating peace and armistice? The depth to the proceeding is not a common aspect of war fiction.

The First world war is about to end and to begin the process, a group of delegates
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The GR description of this book is excellent. At the beginning, there seemed to be a lot of conjecture - Keneally describes the dreams of two of the participants. But this is good historical fiction, based in fact. What true historical fiction usually does better than nonfiction is characterization. Because fiction can present the people with dialog, sometimes with thought processes, they become flesh and blood in a way that nonfiction does not often do.

This is the story of the negotiation of t
Disclaimer: Arc via Netgalley.

Thomas Keneally is most famously known, at least outside of his homeland, for his novel Schindler’s List. This is re-issue by Open Road Media is a Keneally novel set in another World War I.

Keneally focuses Petain and Matthias Erzberger as they journey to history and the Treaty of Versailles. He reminds that not only are the men human but that perhaps history has been unfair to them. For if anything, Erzberger comes across as the better man.

The title of the bo
Cold War Conversations Podcast
A vivid re-imagining of the WW1 Armistice negotiations

I’ve not read “Shindler’s List”, but Keneally is one of those writers you feel you ought to read. I must admit I did find this difficult to get into with opening dream sequences, but once the book got going and you got used to Keneally’s style the book flows reasonably well.

The story is told via play-like dialogue as Keneally details the backgrounds of the main protagonists whilst examining their motives. The book is well researched and is a
Bryan Alexander
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-i
An interesting idea for a work of fiction, Gossip from the Forest is a historical novel about the end of WWI's combat in November 1918. Thomas Keneally turns this narrow slice of time into a story without a great deal of elaboration, but clearly has fun along the way.

We follow two negotiating teams to a railway car in Compiègne. The Allies, dominated by French Generalissimo Foch, are in triumph, armed with ferocious terms for ending fighting. The Central Powers - well, Germany - are a rag-tag gr
It's a fictional presentation of the peace talks that took place in the forest of Compiègne in November 1918. It's written from the point of view of the German negotiator, Mattias Erzberger, a liberal pacifist. Keneally is managing so, to make us aware of the human face of war. The men involved in the peace talks were pitifully human.

Interesting true fact; In November 1918 the Engineer in charge of the North Region Railways: Arthur-Pierre Toubeau, was instructed to find a suitably discreet place
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Struggled to keep the characters straight between the vans, vons, etc. Sometimes they are referred to by their military post which made it even harder.
Kevin Tole
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a book - a faction or fictitious history if you will - about the group of men brought together to sign the Armistice at the end of the First World War, from two railway carriages parked in an artillery siding in the midst of a forest somewhere in northern France. Like all Keneally's books it is well researched. This one tells it's story by play-like dialogue. Keneally examines the motives behind the statecraft and the personal attitudes and behaviour of the delegates on both sides - from ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this historical novel of WWI. The armistice was signed exactly 100 years ago this month and this was an interesting way to learn about the representatives from different countries who met in a train car. Special emphasis was given to Marshal Foch from France and Erzberger from Germany, about whom I previously knew nothing. I have several more historical novels from that time period that I am looking forward to reading soon.
Colin Davison
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, gripping - exactly the sort of novel I love to read, fiction and non-fiction combined, and executed in great style by the author.
Keneally is best known for the later Schindler's Ark and this too combines history and imagination with the characters examined in the intense, pressured atmosphere of railway carriage 2417D in a French forest where they are drawing up the Armistice to end the fighting of the World War One.
It does not quite have the remarkable depth of detail of Schindler,
Jerry Pogan
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fictional history of the German surrender of World War I. Told, mostly, through the eyes of Matthias Erzberger a German representative who was given the duty to accept whatever terms the Allied imposed while hoping to negotiate some mercy from them. Although this was a fictional retelling by Keneally I believe it was actually very factual.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the French got what they deserved in taking such a hard line in the 1918 armistice discussions? In not conceding the Germans any leeway, the seeds were sown for the next war in just twenty years time. The soon to end war is a background theme; the writer concentrates more on the individual prejudices each delegate brings to the discussions. Very readable.
Gerard Beattie
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An informed, considered and well written book

I really enjoyed reading this novel. As always in Keneally's work the characters are very well drawn adding to the storyline. The atmosphere in the forest and in the train carriages reflects the mood of the events taking place.
Mak Horner
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Having seen Thomas 'Fenian' Keneally interviewed on TV many years ago,after the publication of a novel about Irish politics, & hearing his chippy Australian tones denigrating Great Britain & all who sail under her colours(me included!), I have avoided reading his controversial work - until now. This imaginative historical novel from 1975 is a masterpiece of a 'reconstruction' of the thoughts & feelings of the disparate men - no women, or nurses, here! - who came together in a railway carriage in ...more
Kris McCracken
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
a novel which reconstructs the minutia of the negotiations surrounding the declaration of an Armistice at the end of World War I. Now don’t let that concept fool you, as this is an engaging and impressive work.

Kenneally paints vivid portraits of the key characters, and infuses a humanity that is often absent in this kind of work. The novel is a fantastic study of the profound challenge of ending a conflict that featured such brutality. As might be expected, the real interest can be found in the
Diane Moyle
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
This is the story of the men, both German and French who gathered in the woods of France to work out the details of the armistice that ended World War I. The German envoys were not well known and each questioned why he was even chosen for this auspicious task. There were both politicians, soldiers and sailors in their group. They had to make the hair-raising crossing of the German front which was falling into chaos to reach the rendezvous point with the French. The French party consisted of gene ...more
Jeremy Reppy
As someone with a particular interest in Imperial Germany, WWI, and the immediate post-war period, I was really looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, I found the book underwhelming. The author provides descriptive images of the psyches of the major characters and provides good descriptions of the settings, both the physical landscape and what was or might have been happening at that time. I can certainly see in the descriptive nature of his writing how he was later able to have such succe ...more
May 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I found this quite a challenging read and I never felt fully invested in it. There’s something quite cold and unemotional about the writing that puts up a barrier between the reader and the characters. Nevertheless I can see that it is a highly original approach to historical story-telling, concentrating on the inner thoughts and feelings of the German delegation who were sent to sign the armistice in the forest in November 1918 after the surrender. I think it presupposes that the reader will al ...more
Herb Hastings
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For many reasons I am fascinated by the First World War. It was the true beginning of the 20th century and set the tone and planted the seeds of all that followed. There would have been no Hitler or Soviet Union without this war. It was overshadowed be the one that followed but is was the parent of that war. This novel focuses on the sad little end to the Great War. It gives us the small men who allowed other men to die while they talked. The soldiers in the trenches just wanted it to end, they ...more
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
Full disclaimer. I did not finish this book. I found it extremely intelligent, well-written and very clever. The premise of the historical interpretation of members of the German armistice delegation and their mission to negotiate an end to WWI had just too much minutiae -- I was not engaged. I appreciated the scenarios of the imagined mindset of the main characters, but... Perhaps WWI buffs would enjoy much more.
The basic facts surrounding the signing of the Armistice in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne in November 1918 are well known. Nearly everyone present wrote their memoirs afterwards explaining their views of the event.
Thomas Keneally has used the facts and recreated the scene so that we can imagine it, but this book still reads like a summary of everyone's memoirs rather than a novel. It was shortlisted for what was probably the dampest squib of a Booker Prize in history in 1975.
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
If you have an interest in how World War I might have come to an end, then you might like this story by Thomas Keneally. Set in a saloon train car in a forest on the outskirt of Paris, representatives from Germany, France & Britain meet to negotiate terms. Well written, but not my favorite time, place or action. Oh well, Keneally rarely disappoints. ...more
Garry Nixon
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't hear or read about the final days of the First World War without thinking of this novel, and those men gathered in the railway carriage to redraw the lines of Europe, and much else of the world. Defeat and victory, war and peace. And of course it did not last.
Brendan O'connell
Mar 15, 2016 rated it liked it
It certainly gives an insight that it didn't occur to me to think about before; well told with little flowery text - just as I like
Aug 31, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: so-close
Keneally vividly depicts one of the most important, but behind-the-scenes events in history.
Travis Jackson
rated it it was ok
Dec 17, 2015
rated it liked it
Feb 24, 2011
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict ...more

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