Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book: Florian Illies' "1913: The Year Before The Storm"

I have read several books this year that weren't what I expected.  I read the summaries and, thinking I know what the books are about, I check them out of the library just to discover that they are not what I thought they were.  Florian Illies' "1913: The Year Before the Storm" was the third book this year that surprised me ... in a not so good way.

I was expecting a book that discussed the conditions in 1913 that led up to the start of World War I in the following year.  That was what the book was about ... sort of.  The book concentrates on the lives of socialites and artists - painters, authors, poets, composers - in the year leading up to the war.  Each chapter covers a month.  Each chapter is broken up into sections covering each artist's or socialite's life during the month.

While I will admit this is a new and somewhat original approach, I really wasn't interested in the neurotic and mentally twisted lives of German and French artists.  Getting through this book was a struggle at times.  I kept hoping that, as we got closer to 1914, things would get more interesting but that was not to be.  Perhaps the most interesting thing, mentioned sparingly throughout the book, was what Adolf Hitler was up to during this year ... namely selling mediocre watercolors.

In the end what I learned from this book was that artist are often strange people.  I also learned that, even as the Great War approached, people's lives just carried on like the outside world didn't exist.

I was generous and gave this book three stars on Goodreads.  It was not the book's fault that I had rushed to select this book without adequately researching it first.  I'll have to be more careful with my future reading selections.

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