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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Guns of August

FROM JM: A superb writeup on the Pulitzer Prize Winner book:
I finally finished Guns of August and wanted to let you know how much Ienjoyed it. Since I read it immediately after The Proud Tower, I read over a thousand pages of straight Barbara Tuchman. Although her writing is over all excellent, I was still annoyed at a couple of aspects of it -- as I said before, her presumption that the reader is familiar with every important event and battle since the Greeks, her plus tendency to use obscure words when there are perfectly good words that would apply, her sometimes jumbled sentences where one has to figure out what pronoun refers to what, and most of all, her tendency to use foreign phrases assuming her readers to be multilingual. (I have familiarity with German and and was once fluent in French, and still many of the phrases were meaningless to me.) All this being said I found her writing generally delightful and much prefer it to straightforward declarative sentences -- in fact, after the first Barbara Tuchman, I tried to read a book I had on my list, Summer of 1914, and found
it totally unreadable because the language was overly simplistic and the writer seemed to have some kind of point he wanted to hit the reader over the head with. I try to read books were the author doesn't have an agenda..

Please don't take anything I said above as a serious criticism -- I loved the book and really want to thank you again for giving it to me. It took me a long time to read, because I kept having to consult maps and charts including but not limited to the ones that Tuchman supplied.. Also, I was constantly looking at the index to remind myself of who people were -- I really appreciated her inclusion of people's titles in the index without forcing the reader to go back to the page and search for it. I realize this is sounding like a book report, but when I'm on my voice program it's hard for me to keep it simple.

I must admit I was frustrated at the ending, as I was looking forward to reading the details of the Battle of the Marne, and considered reading next a book that would continue from where hers left off, but I am really eager to get back to Robert Massie, whose style I consider to be absolutely perfect and delightful. I'm going to start it tomorrow -- today I'm finishing a mystery that I started in the last chapters of Guns of August but I'm Impatient to finish it, as I can't wait to get to Castles of Steel.

You're so right about how fascinating reading about strategy and battles is and my fear of "gory details" being unfounded. In fact I've ordered a couple of books that show in detail the battles of World War I. My World War I library is approaching the size of those high formerly acquired about Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and the progressive movement in the first 20
years of the twentieth century. I've been reading history for just about a year and a half now and am still surprised at how much I'm enjoying it. I have a tendency to read several books about a period or person from different perspectives as opposed to reading a book or two and covering a lot more territory. Please forgive my verbosity -- I've just been so excited about these books that I can't contain myself, and I'm really dangerous when I have my voice recognition program running. Bottom line: thanks -- I really enjoyed Guns. Let me know if you've found your copy of Gary's book yet -- if not, Gary will gladly arrange to give you another copy. Hope you're enjoying the summer -- JM

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