1915 by Lyn Macdonald


The Death of Innocence
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 A harrowing account of the first full year of WW I, a watershed span during which it dawned on the British and their allies that global war was not a glorious adventure but a deadly serious business. In recounting the military events of 1915 from the standpoint of the British Empire, historian Macdonald makes effective use of first-person recollections from surviving Tommies and their Commonwealth comrades in arms, who were at the sharp end of the bayonet on battlegrounds from Flanders to Gallipoli. Including just enough big-picture background to keep major campaigns and offensives in perspective, she provides an affectingly clear picture of what it meant to face German artillery, machine guns, and poison gas in the muddy trenches of the Western Front or to endure the withering fire of Turks defending the high ground above the strategic Dardanelles. Macdonald also makes a fine job of documenting how the bloody realities of close-quarters combat transformed eager volunteers into hard-bitten veterans with precious few illusions about their lethal lot. Beyond reckoning the human costs of what folly turned into a soldier's (not a commander's) conflict, she assesses the impact of the annihilating, stalemated struggle on those who remained home, perhaps making dressings for the local hospital, and anxiously awaiting news of their boys. While horrific losses helped strengthen Great Britain's resolve, many parallels may be drawn between 1915's brutal events and America's rude awakening in 1968, when demonstrators as well as news dispatches forcibly reminded the nation that its sons were being slaughtered in places both geographically and culturally remote. An estimable, resonant contribution to the WW I record, one which leaves no doubt that innocence as well as truth is among the first casualties when war comes to stay. (32 pages of photos, not seen; 20 maps)

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-3499-4
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994