As everyone knows (or at least I hope everyone knows) 2014 is the centenary of the First World War. That being said, I’ve decided that this year I will be reading as many World War One books as possible.
I started off with Max Hasting’s latest offering; Catastrophe 1914. This book focuses on only the first year of World War One. Starting with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which can be argued, was the catalyst that led to the outbreak of war. Hastings discusses why it took so long for war to be declared after the assassination. There was roughly a six week gap between the assassination and European countries declaring war on one another.
I have never read such an in depth analysis of the first six months of World War One. What I loved about this book was that Hastings didn’t just focus on the obvious major players and aristocracy that were involved. He found a way of making sure you connected with actual ordinary, down to earth people who had their lives turned upside down.
The other thing that I really enjoyed was just how many references to Winston Churchill there were. Anyone who knows me, know just how obsessed I am with Churchill, so giving me a book that starts with a quote from Winston Churchill is one sure fire way to make sure that I never put it down!
In all seriousness, Churchill doesn’t get a lot of respect for the First World War and it was nice to see that rather than painting out his role, Hastings did discuss how Churchill affected the first six months of World War One. Having said that, Hastings doesn’t make out that Churchill was perfect either. He openly discusses the good and the bad of his decisions and the outcome.
I really hope that Max Hastings is writing another book to follow this one. It could definitely be a series for the next four years.