The Great War Explained

Posted: June 24, 2014 in Books, World War I
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The Great War Explained

Philip Stevens

Pen and Sword Books

Available Now

Trying to write a book that explains everything about the First World War – all of its theatres, its background and the effects it had – is a large enough task in and of itself. Trying to do it at a beginner’s level – so that it will take the reader from absolute novice to well-clued-up expert is even harder – some would say even near impossible. The Great War Explained tries to accomplish this, and it makes a very good go of it.

The book is a decent sized one, and is presented in a fun, conversational style – loaded with some interesting pieces of trivia scattered throughout in box-outs. The upbeat writing style is one of the book’s strongest assets, as it gives the impression of being on a battlefield tour with a particularly knowledgeable and affable guide. The pacing is excellent, never lingering too long, never skimming over an area too quickly.

As the book progresses a large portion is dedicated to aerial and naval combat, which is very welcome; far too many “newbie” books linger on the mud and blood of the trenches without ever passing an eye across other theatres. The Great War Explained however, is wide and encompassing.

If I had any criticisms, it would be that some parts or aspects of the conflict are not quite explained in as much detail as they really need to be. A few extra paragraphs here or there when covering some of the basics would have been most welcome. A few more maps and/or photos showing how the battles and fronts tied together in the greater scheme of things would have gone a long way towards making some parts easier to follow, too.

All in all, The Great War Explained is a great reference or starter book…but not quite the “complete beginner’s guide” they were hoping for – those expecting to have their hand held every step of the way may come away a little disappointed. It is – however – a great beginner’s book – and a fun reference for those who are a little more knowledgeable.

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