This is a very awkward review to write. I've spent the better part of the last ten years turning myself into a historian, see, and so I feel like I should be speaking as an expert, analyzing this book of popular history, pointing out what's right and wrong, speaking from my so-called vast knowledge on the value of a book about Ypres written by the author of Forrest Gump
The thing is, I don't know a damned thing about military history. I mean, I know the basics of the War of 1812 and Canada's participation in the World Wars, but man, that is it.
So really, I have no idea how accurate this is, or what more seasoned military historians would say. I have no gauge. (Well, his one pronouncement on the area I do know cold is utterly wrong, but then again, it's something the vast majority of people get utterly wrong, including historians.)
And my opinion as something very close to a layperson? It's all right. I didn't love it, but it was accessible, easy to read, and he incorporated some soldier narratives in interesting ways. This isn't a riveting book, as far as I'm concerned. (But then, I'm biased - there's a reason I generally stay away from military history.)
The descriptions of trench warfare, however, are vivid and stark, and he does a good job of capturing the long days and weeks and months with very little progress made. While Groom covers the decisions being made by the generals and politicians, he frames them in terms of the impact on the men who had to carry them out.
So, should I recommend this book to others? I'm not sure. But if you're interested in military history, it might be worth a read. Then again, military historians might come along and remind me I'm talking out my ass. And I am.
Crossposted to Smorgasbook