Wednesday, January 28, 2015

1913:The Year Before the Storm


Today's nonfiction post is on 1913:The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies. It is 266 pages long including a bibliography and is published by Melville House. The cover is a picture of couples skating on a frozen pond. The intended reader is someone interested in history, ground work for World War I, and about famous people for one year of their lives. There is no language, talk of sex, and talk of violence. Teenagers and adults would get the most enjoyment out of this book. The story is told in third person with some first person letters added for favor. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Just before one of its darkest moments came the twentieth century's most exciting year.
It was the year Henry Ford first put a conveyor belt in his car factory, and the year Louis Armstrong first picked up a trumpet. It was the year Charlie Chaplin signed his first movie contract, and Coco Chanel and Prada opened their first dress shops. It was the Proust began his opus, Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring, and the first Armory Show in New York introduced the world to Picasso and the world of abstract art. It was the year the recreational drug now known as ecstasy was invented.
It was 1913, the year before the world plunged into the catastrophic darkness of World War I.
In a witty yet moving narrative that progresses month by month through the year, and is interspersed with numerous photos add documentary artifacts (such as Kafka's love letters), Florian Illies ignores the conventions of the stodgy tome so common in “one year” histories. Forefronting cultural matter as much as politics, he delivers a charming and riveting tale of a world full of hope and unlimited possibility, peopled with amazing characters and radical politics, bristling with new art and new technology... even as ominous storm clouds began to gather.

Review- This was an engaging read. Illies does a very good job with both his history and his storytelling. Everyone of importance is talked about here. Who was born this year, what artists and writers were doing, what business men and world leaders were planning. Everyone who has or had impact on society is talked about. The way the year is told is as a narrative. The reader goes from one or two lines about what Kafka is dreaming out to two or three pages about who Picasso is sleeping with or running away from. I knew most of the people in this year but not all so now I have more I need to read about. The threat of 1914 is not overwhelming. At times the reader can see where something is going to go wrong but most of what is told is in the moment. Just like we do not know what 2015 will be the people in 1913 really had no idea what was going to come in 1914. Illies makes the book just that about 1913 with really no idea about what is going to happen next. A lot like life.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.