A Review of ‘A World Undone: Story of the Great War’ by G J Meyer

This nonfiction book knocked of socks off. I’ve read dozens of books and lecture series about WW1; this was the best of any of them.

What made this so good? The author successfully balanced the historiography of the past with the need to personalize the great actors of the way-back when. The author explained

  • All the major offensives of the European/Anatolian theaters,
  • Why the battles took place, focusing especially on the politics behind each of the battles,
  • What the different generals/politicians did in the lead up to an resolution of the battles,

At the same time, the author shed light upon all the major figures of the war- how the war made them famous, and how in the end all of their personal quirks undid them and got them sacked.

Simply put, the author synthesized all the disparate facts of the Great War, and created a cohesive narrative of the war. Most/all of the other WW1 books I’ve read either

  • Do a good job of telling a moment-by-moment account of the war, but fail at explaining the political motivations triggering the battles therein.
  • Or they do great at the politics, but fail at the actual battles.

This book balances the two, going into detail on topics while also not losing the big picture.

I especially loved the last chapter of the book, when the author did a ‘what happened to the major characters after the war?’ chapter. Hearing about how all the ‘heroes and villains’ of the Great War lived long and fulfilled lives- or wound up in prison/dead- was fascinating, and brought their tales to a fantastic conclusion. Better than fiction.

But this book had some flaws.

  • It only focuses on Europe/Russia/Ottoman Turkey. None of the African theater/Oceania is in focus.
  • Doesn’t focus sufficiently on the politics of the United States. Woodrow Wilson had a stroke while he was mopping up the after-effects of WW1, and I was surprised the author didn’t at least mention it.
  • Doesn’t focus sufficiently on the politics of the Soviet Movement in Russia, or the political scene in Russia in general.

Overall, I loved this. This isn’t a scholarly work. If you are a lay person who wants to learn more about WW1, READ THIS. If you are a scholar familiar with the subject, you won’t find anything new here. This book contains all the essentials about WW1, neatly codified into a single package for someone new to the topic to read. I will read this again in the future, and take notes.

STARS: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS (5 stars=perfect, 4 Stars=Great, 3 Stars=Good, 2 Stars=Fun but Flawed, 1 Star=Not Recommended)

Overall Rating: High Recommended (How I Rate Books)


Genres/Tagwords: Nonfiction, WW1, History Book

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

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