Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1963, Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Guns of August is a compelling work of popular fiction that provides a highly detailed account of the first few months of World War I. Tuchman begins with an examination of the major world leaders in the months leading up to the outbreak of conflict in Belgium and Serbia. These leaders, most commonly of the kingly variety, are characterized as thoroughly 19th century figures adorned with regal accoutrements and ceremonial sabres that are about to clash in a uniquely 20th century form of warfare. Within this violent collision of the old world and the new, Tuchman highlights the strategies, plans, events and personalities that shape and define not only the outcomes of the war, but whose impact was felt throughout the remainder of the century.
It is not without irony that the war that set the stage for the Second World War would eventually become eclipsed by its younger brother in much of society’s consciousness. Despite lacking some of the Hollywood flashiness of World War II, the Great War was an epic drama of both human achievement and suffering that deserves more attention than it is commonly given. While The Guns of August is not the best general introduction to the topic nor is it the most up-to-date scholarship on the period, it does provide a deeply human examination of a world on the precipice of one of the greatest horrors and tragedies it has ever known.
Call Number: D530 .T8