A book by a highly respected historian covering approximately 25 years prior to the first world war. This book was put together from a series of essays that the author had previously written. Each essay deals with a different aspect of life in the "Belle Epoque" prior to the first world war. It gives a picture of a variety of personalities that shaped the political, social and performing life in that era. In particular, I enjoyed chapter 7, which described the historical context of composers, artists and performers in the period leading up to the war. While those persons did not directly cause the war, their art reflected the great changes in society that were taking place during that period.
This was overall a very difficult book to read. The structure, made up from a variety of different essays, was palpable as one read through the book. It was disjointed. It felt like a series of different writings strung together. Although all dealt with the same era, they did not share much in common and could easily have each stood alone.
This book certainly did not read as well as Tuchman's masterpiece, The Guns of August. Although I could only devote limited amounts of time daily to reading it, it took me about six weeks to get through. And this for a reader that is particularly interested in the origins and consequences of the First World War. For someone with a more casual interest, I would not recommend this book.
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