“Stone’s book is a good overview of the war and worth reading.”
“The narrative has a rich sense of immediacy, accentuated with intimate details, as if Stone knew each figure personally.… Throw in a handful of references to poems, films, and novels both contemporary and modern, as Stone does, add dashes of jaunty, scornful judgments, and the result is indeed a literary tour de force. The phrase ‘cannot put it down’ does indeed come to mind.”
Stone is as unconventional as he is brilliant, and this provocative interpretation of the Great War combines impressive command of the literature with a telling eye for relevant facts and a sensitive ear for telling epigrams. Stone presents a Europe that in 1914 bestrode the world like the proverbial colossus. Four years later, the continent faced a spectrum of disasters: shattered economies, shattered societies, shattered lives and shattered illusions. Stone demonstrates the contingent nature of the war's outbreak and analyzes the continued failure to achieve decision on the Western Front until 1917. Stone specializes in Great War Russia, does a first-rate job of presenting the consequences of the collapse of four empires: Hapsburg, German, tsarist and Ottoman. He challenges current interpretations of the postwar treaties, presenting them as a list of failures. The attempt to integrate the world economy collapsed. The postwar expansion of colonial empires proved ephemeral. The League of Nations "declined into irrelevance." Stone reserves his harshest criticism for the punitive terms imposed on a Germany convinced neither of its defeat nor the injustice of its cause. That, he asserts convincingly, laid the groundwork for a second, more terrible conflict. Photos, maps. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The distinguished Stone (history, Bilken Univ., Ankara, Turkey; The Eastern Front: 1914-1917) has compressed five years of war into admirably terse and effective prose. While full of bons mots, this volume is so compressed that it will probably not be accessible as a primer but could serve as a capstone for advanced study. It should be a part of everyone's World War I collection.
The First World War in fewer than 250 pages. Stone (History/Bilkent Univ.; Europe Transformed, 1878-1919, 1984, etc.) tackles the daunting task of summarizing a four-year global conflict in a brief cohesive narrative. For the most part he succeeds, astutely weaving together events from the Eastern, Western and Middle Eastern fronts until their culmination at Brest-Litovsk and the Treaty of Versailles; his almost complete omission of the African front is the one major lapse. The author's prose is anecdotal and overly colloquial, but his command of the subject matter is impressive and his style accessible. Stone's German-centric approach to framing the war balances the interplay between the Eastern and Western fronts, which would prove central to Germany's eventual capitulation. Yet the author also abides by the conventional view of sole German responsibility that would wreak so much havoc during the negotiations at Versailles; he notes in the opening chapter that "Berlin was waiting for ‘the inevitable accident.' " While other powers struggled with internal nationalist movements throughout the war, most notably in the Russian, Hapsburg and Ottoman empires, Germany was a nation-state trying to move in the other direction and establish an empire. Stone juxtaposes the German high command's zeal against its failure to reconcile traditional cavalry-based warfare with new developments in technology. British and French military leaders made the same mistake, which proved to be one of the main factors in prolonging the dreaded stalemates and trench warfare that consumed so many lives. The author skims over some fascinating cultural elements, including the tremendous outpouring of trench literatureand poetry, but he manages to address every military and political facet of the Great War in this welcome look at its manifestations beyond the Western Front. A stimulating, easily digested introduction to the cataclysm that inaugurated the 20th century. Agent: Caroline Michel/PFD