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The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916

(France #2)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,280 ratings  ·  125 reviews
The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 is the second book of Alistair Horne's trilogy, which includes The Fall of Paris and To Lose a Battle and tells the story of the great crises of the rivalry between France and Germany.

The battle of Verdun lasted ten months. It was a battle in which at least 700,000 men fell, along a front of fifteen miles. Its aim was less to defeat the
Paperback, Revised Edition, 388 pages
Published November 4th 1993 by Penguin (first published 1962)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  2,280 ratings  ·  125 reviews

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Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-i
About a month or so ago, I attended a theme party to celebrate a friends birthday. This was the third or fourth theme party Id 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 of
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it

I have a Sick Child right now, which means I'm currently running on less than three hours' sleep. This feels to me like total exhaustion. Still, things could be a lot worse. It's been instructive to remind myself that French soldiers in the line at Verdun not uncommonly went eleven days without any rest at all. Although when I cheerfully reminded my wife of this fact at 4 a.m. she didn't seem to find it very reassuring.

Eleven days though! Imagine trying to confront an armed Brandenburger with
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-ww-i
I found this a superb look at the iconic battle of World War I. In spite of being written appox. 50 yrs ago, Alistair Hornes 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
David Eppenstein
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Never has an author irritated me like this one has. In the biographical material included in the book it mentions that the author, now deceased by the way, was fluent in both French and German. I thought that an odd bit of information to include in an author's bio then I started to read the book. By the end of the first chapter I was a bit miffed; by the end of the second chapter I was irked; by the end of the book I was really aggravated. It started with author including in his text quotations ...more
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pro-patria-mori
Some selfish but ultimately healthy mechanism insulates usmost of us, most of the timefrom life's horrors. Without a mental carapace to protect us from the sheer awfulness of things, wed 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 doesnt ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an outstanding book by Alistair Horne about the greatest battle in the history of mankind. Verdun reminds me of the books I've read on Stalingrad. In fact, Verdun was the Stalingrad of WWI with the exception that it lasted 10 months compared to Stalingrads 5 months. It sounded every bit as awful and there were amazing parallels, too numerous to list in a review. The funny thing is that Alistair Horne argues that the leaders of both armies didnt really intend for the battle to unfold the way ...more
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mikey B.
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, world-war-i
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
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
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ww1

In the authors words Verdun was the First World War in microcosm; an intensification of all its horrors and glories, courage and futility.

This book is considered a classic for a reason. Well written, at times almost poetic, this does a good job of retelling the battle of Verdun, using witness accounts from both sides, from the lowest to highest levels, and also locating it within the wider context of WW1 and WW2.

Just a couple of niggles - the authors continual quoting of untranslated French
'Aussie Rick'
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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!
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What makes Verdun even more tragic is the idea that the British Army needed to take some of the pressure off the French by attacking on the Somme, and more men died.

One more thing about this book's title; it says so much in a few words. What a price the soldiers and the world paid.
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
After reading "The Fall of Paris" earlier this year I was keen to follow up with this second part of Alistair Horne's trilogy about the Franco-German conflicts of 1870 - 1940. This is a comprehensive analysis of the immense Verdun battle of 1916, with a particular emphasis on the strengths and weaknesses of the generals on both sides - Joffre, Pétain, Nivelle, Falkenheyn, the Crown Prince, Knobelsdorf; and others. It's also strong on the experience of the battle for the ordinary soldier. ...more
A comprehensive, well-written history of one of the First World War's most bloodiest battles, which raged from February to December 1916. Codenamed 'Unternehmen Gericht' (Operation Judgment), Germany attacked the fortress town of Verdun in its bid to break the backbone of the French Army and so demoralize France that it would feel compelled to sue for peace.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, war
Western Front battle books can be hard to read. They often quickly dissolve into an indistinguishable shell-pocked moonscape (mudscape?), littered with bits and pieces of thousands of soldiers. Horne's history of the great 1916 battle has plenty of those elements, but he elevates the story by focusing on various individuals (French and German), from warlords to common soldiers. He also does an admirable job explaining the questionable Why of the battle (both French and German). On the German ...more
Mike Fendrich
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book on an absolutely horrible subject. How many more? Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.
Brad Steele
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A riveting account of what is probably the worst place to have been in all human history. Very distressing at points, though thankfully written without bias towards either side of the conflict
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A friend and I recently visited Verdun, one of the devastating slaughterhouse battle sites (for both the French and the German adversaries) of World War I, and as preparation for the trip, I read this excellent account.

You visit the site, now mostly woods, and you see little to indicate the ferocious fighting that went on for ten months in l916 to capture this strategic location. There is one notable exception, though, the huge French Fort Douamont, built on a hill and almost entirely
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I first started reading this book for my college history class, I thought "Oh. This is another boring, dry history book.". I was so wrong. Alistair Horne paints a picture of the worst battle in World War One, and also as some people say the worst battle in history, with amazing detail, and compassion. "The Price of Glory" is a book that everyone should read, to fully understand the unnecessary horror and terrible pain that went on in the Battle of Verdun, and also in World War One as a ...more
Brendan Hodge
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-great-war
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 ...more
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
Andrew Ssempala
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010s
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
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.
Feb 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
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.
May 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Interest in the period led me to the book but it was not a satisfying read, in fact, I could not finish it. Maybe the style reflected a time period that is very different from today's authors but I could not tolerate the subjective, judgmental comments about the generals for starters.
Richard Dollison
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent book about a horrible event. It is difficult to imagine that one battle claimed 700,000 casualties.
Kristin Strong
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written over 50 years ago, when the memory of Verdun was much fresher than it is today, this chronicle of the longest and bloodiest battle of the First War (and possibly the longest and bloodiest in history) is definitely not a dry account of troop movements and battle plans. It's the story of the battle, rather, often in the words of the men who fought there. The humiliation of the Franco-Prussian war that drove France to defend Verdun to the last man, the doctrine of relentless attack adopted ...more
Tim O'Sullivan
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is one of a trilogy of books written Alistair Horne, about three critical battles in the history of France, the Fall of Paris in 1870, and the Fall of France in 1940., being the others. Each of them trace a similar story In the failure of command, in a battle with Germany, in one form or another, the only difference being in this one, the French didnt lose. I hesitate to say they won, the casualty rate was horrendous and crippled the French Army for the rest of the war. This is an elegant ...more
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Sir Alistair Allan Horne was a British journalist, biographer and historian of Europe, especially of 19th and 20th century France. He wrote more than 20 books on travel, history, and biography. He 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; ...more

Other books in the series

France (3 books)
  • The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71
  • To Lose a Battle: France 1940

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