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The War To End All Wars

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10.11.10

Tomorrow marks the 92d anniversary of the end of The Great War, the "war to end all wars" until World War II erupted.

In this war and its settlement lay the seeds of much of the later turmoil of the 20th century. To understand how World War II and subsequent conflicts occurred, it is important to know something about the first world war.

For a short overview of any topic, there can be nothing better than a good children's book. Russell Freedman presents an excellent account in The War To End All Wars: World War I.

In the years before World War I, the great European powers were ruled by three first cousins: King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Tsar Nicholas II. Miranda Carter uses the cousins' correspondence and a host of historical sources to tell their tragicomic stories in George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: three royal cousins and the road to World War I.

Perhaps the best one-volume account of the war for general readers is A World Undone: the story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 by G. J. Meyer. Meyer is a wonderful storyteller, bringing "to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe's mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today".

Fiction often brings to life the truths of history in a very personal way, enabling the reader to understand the human cost of war. Three mystery series involve the reader in the lives and times of characters who become real to us and about whom we care and want to know more.

Anne Perry has written a five-volume mystery series, one volume for each year of the war, about the Reavley siblings of Cambridge. Joseph, Matthew, and Judith are pitted against a "kill for peace" anti-war group, led by the mysterious "Peacemaker" responsible for the deaths of their parents. Read these in order: No Graves As Yet: 1914, Shoulder the Sky: 1915, Angels in the Gloom: 1916, At Some Disputed Barricade: 1917, and We Shall Not Sleep: 1918.

In Charles Todd's series, Ian Rutledge returns to Scotland Yard in 1919, shell-shocked and haunted by the memories of the young Scottish soldier he had unwillingly executed during the war. Sent out to investigate difficult cases in remote settings of England, Rutledge, accompanied by Hamish, the ghost of the executed soldier, manages to find solutions in a series of atmospheric, well-plotted mysteries. Begin with A Test of Wills.

Former ladies' maid Maisie Dobbs, following service as a nurse on the French battlefields, opens her own private investigator's office in 1929. Maisie investigates disappearances, homicides and other crimes in this series which portrays London in the years between the wars. Begin with Maisie Dobbs.

For these and more resources to help understand the Great War, its aftermath and impact, visit us at www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541.

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