3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Forgotten Side of the Great War,
This review is from: Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea (Hardcover)Even a reasonably serious general reader of World War I histories is likely to be far better acquainted with the war on land than the war at sea. After all, what else is there to know besides the Battle of Jutland, the sinking of the Lusitania, the German U-boat offensive and the reactive convoy system? OK, some may have heard of Dogger Bank and recognize that Gallipoli was originally an entirely naval operation until practical difficulties turned it into the disastrous land offensive which has become synonymous with misadventures of the kind. That's it, right? Actually, no, not by a long shot. And if you want to know the "rest" of the WWI story, and perhaps come to agree with the view shared by Author Massie and many other historians that British sea power was the war's ultimate determinant, then this is the book for you.
Another reviewer points out that the book appears to have been largely derived from secondary sources, and that may well be true. But Massie's masterful amalgamation, if you will, nonetheless produces a stunning panorama that if not entirely original in its sources, is surely an example of the very finest scholarship of the kind and an "original" in both its sweep and its marvelous presentation in terms of language and story-telling.
I made the same "secondary source" comment about Winston Groom's 2002 book on the fighting in the Ypres salient, "A Storm in Flanders," but there is between the two works a distinction with a considerable difference. The Ypres story has been written about with sufficient frequency over the last 90 years that any new telling runs the risk of being downright familiar to serious WWI readers, and so it is with "Storm"; I could have sworn that I had in hand only a slight variation of the several works on the subject I have read. Thus, my conclusion that Groom's book amounted to little more than a nicely turned out rehash. Not at all worthless, just of limited value to the serious WWI reader.
Such is not the case with "Castles". The book undertakes nothing less than a thorough account of the entire war at sea and succeeds like nothing else I have ever encountered. Secondary the sources might have been, but the result is indisputably first-rate. Take our "five-star" word for it: you will not only enjoy the read, but will forever after be comfortable that you understand and appreciate the significance of the "forgotten" side of the war.