A World Undone is a detailed account of World War 1 and the events surrounding. The author, G.J. Meyer, creates a historical retelling set apart from other author attempts by adding “Background” chapters in between every chapter of chronological events. These background chapters explore everything from Franz Ferdinand and Lawrence of Arabia to the various ethnic groups that now comprise modern day Iraq and Turkey.
It’s a thick read. By comparison the next book I read (which I’ll commentate on next) was Primal by Mark Batterson, a pastor in Washington D.C. I finished his book in one day and A World Undone took me about a month to finish in the middle of my busy schedule.
Meyer does a fine job describing everyone involved, painting portraits of greed, pride, vain ambition, loyalty, and sacrifice based on their words and deeds. While at times his critique seems to depict many military leaders as self-absorbed and nearly insane, it’s difficult to disagree considering these same leaders would send 25,000+ men to their deaths day after day and that we define insanity as doing the same thing over and over with the same result. His most crushing assessment is when he describes certain leaders as having “lived too long”, a characterization I hope to never attain.
World War 1 is the single most defining conflict in the last century, even more so than World War 2, and it tends to be the least understood. It led to numerous wars throughout the decades following and shaped much of the present world we know. If not this book, I would certainly recommend any historical Curious George to read at least one book on this Great War.