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The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 (France #2)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,877 Ratings  ·  97 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 en
Paperback, Revised Edition, 388 pages
Published November 4th 1993 by Penguin (first published 1962)
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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 th
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 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
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 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
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 th ...more
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pro-patria-mori
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
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 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
'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!
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. Obvious ...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 Fa ...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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is a fantastic history of the battle of Verdun. Alistair Horne is exceptional at contextualizing the battle in it's place in WWI and it's aftereffects on the German and French mindset leading into WWII. He unpacks the battle from the highest level to the lowest soldier in the trench. He's descriptions of the absolute horror experienced by the men that fought there, especially at Fort Douaumont or Mort Homme will stay with you. Truly top notch history and extremely readable.

My only complain
Joanne Stevenson
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a deceptively thin book that took me nearly two months to read. Perhaps because I needed to return to check maps look at photos of the soldiers in the narratives and read paragraphs outloud to anyone who would sit still long enough.

The mind boggling carnage of World War I is captured and the lessons of war learned in WW I and so eagerly applied in WWII are captured so well in the story of this battle, as is the unbelievable power of a handful of men with serious personality defects. I w
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book about an almost-forgotten but pivotal battle of World War 1. It is told mostly from the French perspective, and is exhaustively researched and stirringly written. I won't try to convey the impressions that this book provokes, but between this and "Poilu" (written by a foot soldier in the French army of the time) give the reader an in-depth picture of one of the great insanities of modern civilization...
Aaron Shields
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
700K+ dead. What a harrowing disaster.
George Nap
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
" War is less costly than servitude...the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As expected, this was an incredible book. Alistair Horne is definitely the master. This book should be a keystone to any attempts to understand WWI.
Douglas Graham
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. Classic history of the battle of Verdun.
James Zarzana
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne
Although an older work of history, Alistair Horne’s The Price of Glory is an essential addition to anyone’s library about World War One. Originally published in 1963 and reissued in 1994, Horne was able to interview survivors of the Great War in his research. His work reads as fresh today as when first published.
This work centers on the Battle of Verdun, a cataclysmic struggle that lasted almost all of 1916. During the War’s centennial, as many r
G.d. Brennan
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Matt Caris
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Typically brilliant work by Horne. While the strategic-level assessment (particularly the account of Falkenhayn) is a bit oversimplified, and steeped in the politics of the time of writing, Horne captures the humanity of the most inhumane moments of the 20th Century wonderfully. It's the kind of narrative history that - regardless of what quibbles one may take with some of the historical scholarship - simply is not written anymore today, at least not to these standards.

Best of all, Horne never
James Oliver
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When reading, the main question you will ask yourself is how there could have been two individuals who were so cold blooded to order the deaths of so many. In ten months, France and Germany combined to suffer more men killed, wounded and missing than the United States suffered throughout four years of our Civil War. Ten months versus FIFTEEN TIMES how many the US lost in fifteen years in Vietnam. Ten months and they killed a hundred times how many the US lost in Afghanistan and Iraq... combined. ...more
Oliver Kim
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Like the battle it describes, reading this book was an oppressive, unrelenting experience. After a hundred pages I grew numb to the litany of costly blunders and casualties; after the last page, I could not help but close the book feeling tired and forlorn. True, I read most of the book in one long sitting, but I think this exhausting effect is intentional.

One small caveat (though not a flaw) is that this book treats the battle mostly from a French perspective. This makes sense, as the battle m
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More years ago than I care to admit to, I was taken as a teenager to the Verdun battlefield. From the various locations there, it was clear that something monumental had happened. But I didn't realise how monumental until I read this book. Horne's work is a great mix of strategic, political and personal perspectives on the battle. He describes the attempted "bleeding white" of the French army, sometimes met by the vainglory attitudes of those commanding the long-suffering Poilus. There was certa ...more
Popularly at least, the First World War is often seen as uniquely bad among wars and Verdun as its worst battle. In this middle volume of his trilogy on Franco-German military conflict from 1870 to 1940, Alistair Horne does an excellent job on both the levels which require success to make good military history. First, he clearly conveys the changing tactical picture of the battle. Second, he comes as close as it might be possible to recreate the experience of living and dying at Verdun between F ...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
More about Alistair Horne...

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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