A history of the longest battle of the First World War – or is it? The events of the actual battle get remarkably little space or discussion. Instead the book deals with the social history of the soldiers on both sides (although primarily the French), and on the various traps of attrition, prestige, and inertia that the generals and their political masters fell into. This is fascinating stuff, but there's an unspoken assumption that the reader is primarily interested in these broader issues, and furthermore already knows all the important features of the battle itself in enough detail to not need even a chronology. Having read the book I still don't know how the battle ended. It's probably better therefore to think about this book as an exploration of the wider landscape, both official and personal, of the experience of a huge and extended battle, rather than having all that much to do with the battle as an event.
Finished on Sat, 24 Feb 2018 06:41:24 -0800. Rating 3/5.