The Western Front dominates our memories of the First World War. Yet a million and half men died in northeast Italy in a war that need never have happened, when Italy declared war on the Habsburg Empire in May 1915. Led by General Luigi Cadorna, the most ruthless of all the Great War commanders, waves of Italian conscripts were sent charging up the limestone hills north of Trieste to be massacred by troops fighting to save their homelands.
This is a great, tragic military history of a war that gave birth to fascism. Mussolini fought in those trenches, but so did many of the greatest modernist writers in Italian, German, and English: Ungaretti, Gadda, Musil, Hemingway. It is through these accounts that Mark Thompson, with great skill and empathy, brings to life this forgotten conflict.
©2009 Mark Thompson; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"[A] study as pioneering as it is brilliant.... Drawing on an impressive array of British, Italian, and Austrian sources, including fascinating interviews with survivors, Thompson re-creates the Italo-Austrian conflict in all its facets.... The White War is the work of a bright young historian proving his mettle." (The Weekly Standard)
"Thompson's book is beautifully written, and he skillfully interweaves vivid accounts of military progress with telling vignettes about the more extraordinary figures caught up in the fighting." (Independent)
"Excellent study of a little-known conflict"
Like most in the English-speaking world I tend to think of the Great War as a conflict between the British/French and Germans in Flanders. The many other fronts get little coverage, so this book on the Italian war effort was a refreshing change. The book is far more than just a story of the campaign - it covers the politics in Rome and even the literary angle - while conforming to the popular format of including many private letters and diaries to give an impression of the experience of the ordinary soldier as well as the generals. I thought the balance between these elements was spot on, and worked well in portraying the horrors of the war itself and the wider political games being played. Thoroughly recommended.
"OK, but rather spoilt by narrator"
An area of history I knew little about so I was pleased to find this book. The rather breathy, exclaimation style of the narrator was a bit off-putting though. It was as if he was narrating for a childrens book. Perhaps a bit of audio "proof reading" would have helped too - he said Australian instead of Austrian once or twice.
Well researched though, and recommended. I will Google some pictures of the mountain fighting to get an idea of what it looked like.
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