Wars show our species at its lowest state, none more so than World War I. It was so stupid and unnecessary, had it not happened, one could not have used it as a theatrical spoof for no one would have given it any credulity. Still, it happened.
Peter Englund has written an account The Beauty and The Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War that follows twenty individuals of differing talents and loyalties through their experiences on and near the front lines of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He tries to give a sense of the big picture by concentrating on the petty and killing details of their lives.
While you will be moved by their stories, the twenty people become broken assorted cookies in a box. The reader is continuously piecing them together and wondering where and what their locations mean. Many incidents are so minor and fragmented they seem cruel filler.
A better introduction to the suffering individuals of the war is an earlier 2007 publication by Neil Hanson, Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War that follows three soldiers, a German, an Englishman, and an American, through their fighting experience until they are killed and their bodies lost. We know their experiences from their diaries and letters so the book has a raw energy not easily forgotten.
Reading one or both books causes a reader to wonder why any faith or trust is placed in the military professionals, the elected officials, or the governmental bureaucrates. None served mankind well in this war that should not have been. Charles Marlin