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Gentleman Volunteers: The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in the First World War

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Mediocre

    In spite of the introductory remarks about the tremendous (and somewhat poignant) efforts of the author to publish this work, I found it disappointing for a number of reasons.

    Although my interest in the subject is high, thus inclining and motivating me to engage the book (my grandfather was an American ambulance driver in WW1), I found it difficult to overlook a number of serious flaws:

    1) The Nook edition is pathetically proofread, with the most common problem being the transposition of the letter "d" for the letter "s" in italicized French words. Other issues have to do with punctuation and hyphenation. The problems are inconsistent but pervasive enough to require a constant mental adjustment as you read. It's just plain annoying. Admittedly, this is not the author's fault.

    2) The information is poorly organized. For example, after beginning with the principal figures who organized the American ambulance corps at the outset of the conflict, Hansen shifts to anecdotal information about action (a fairly logical sequence), only to change to the nature of the vehicles driven, then back to the politics of the matter. Very odd.

    3) The work suffers from imbalance. A great deal of time and effort is spent on the minutiae of the subject, while the synthesis of historical narrative is almost entirely lacking. For example, 20+ pages are spent on the relative virtues of the Model T (and "relative" is the term--if Hansen qualified his assessment one more time I felt I was going to scream). I doubt not that some find the information about changes in the internal psi of the Model T's motor in relation to varying grades of octane fascinating. I, personally, found it tedious to an extreme when there was only a smattering of narrative history to be had--in other words, what makes history interesting and (more importantly) memorable.

    I did come away more informed about this aspect of history. How could I not? But I wouldn't recommend the book as anything other than a source work for a historian doing a larger work on WW1.

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