Review

To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War

by Jeff Shaara



Jeff Shaara proves in TO THE LAST MAN why he is a premier artist in
the literary picture of war history. His prior successes, stories
of the American Civil War, were skillful chronologies and great
story lines. TO THE LAST MAN is no less in its characterization of
World War I. Much has been written about WWII and the Civil War,
but Shaara brings alive the events of a war on European shores and
how the Americans helped to end the great struggle.

Shaara's style is much like that used in his earlier novels. The
introduction lists the main players in the war drama, with brief
bios and early family histories. Subsequent chapters follow the
viewpoint characters during their particular experiences and time
frames for their actions. A large section is devoted to the stories
of air war, its place in the conflict and the men who became heroes
due to their aerial successes. Previous wars had depended on
plodding trench battles, often fought hand-to-hand. But the
aeroplane forever changed the landscapes of modern warfare.

Shaara pictures heroic lives from both sides, those daredevil
pilots who brought gunfire to the skies. The names of Baron Manfred
von Richthofen and Raoul Lufbery dominate these chapters. Shaara
demonstrates a deep probe of historical fact by his true-to-life
portrayals. These pilots and their compatriots jump from the page
and put the reader into the action. Emotions sway toward the
humanity and character of each aerial duelist.

Enter John J. Pershing, military commander of the American forces
reluctantly sent to France. Pershing endures endless delays in the
deployment of American troops and is frustrated by the tactics of
French and British leaders. In the war's late stages, European
commanders want the American forces assimilated into their
respective armies. But Pershing holds firm to the independence of
his forces.

Roscoe Temple is the character Shaara uses to tell America's story
in the war. Temple is a Marine recruit, a replacement for the
thousands of French and British soldiers who lay dead in the muddy
French fields. He is the embodiment of the American spirit that
traveled to France to do a job --- kill the enemy and drive the
Huns back to Germany. His transformation from green recruit to
seasoned warrior happens rapidly and leads to the war's end.

Shaara has written a remarkable book, full of history, real and
imagined. The majority of the action is authentic, with imagined
characters living their reality. Through their eyes, a reader today
can easily grasp the horror (yet majesty) and great action known as
World War I. TO THE LAST MAN is certain to become a
bestseller.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 23, 2011

To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War
by Jeff Shaara

  • Publication Date: August 29, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • ISBN-10: 0345461355
  • ISBN-13: 9780345461353