Review: Eye Deep in Hell (Ellis)

Eye Deep in Hell: Trench Warfare in World War I.

This is a thorough, if concise, summary of life in the trenches. The subject is treated topically, which can be a great help to the Great War researcher.

The text is heavily illustrated with black-and-white period photos on nearly every page (including a sprinkling of the ones that have become iconic), but the quality of reproduction is often poor: for example, a set of photos depicting soldiers’ gear would have been more useful if the exposure had been adjusted to permit better detail. Many of the chapters are headed by excerpts from Great War poetry. There is no bibliography, but the author provided a single-page “Suggestions for further reading,” which lists titles that, in his opinion, constitute “the best history of the war as a whole” (that being Liddell Hart’s History of the First World War), “‘good books on individual years and campaigns,” “the best eyewitness accounts,” and “other illuminating books.” The index is adequate.

The author’s literary voice is clear and pleasant, making for enjoyable reading of what is essentially a well-written book; however, there are a huge number of typographical errors throughout, indicating very sloppy proofreading. This is a Johns Hopkins University Press 1989 reprint of Ellis’s 1976 work. Having lived for a few years in the late ’70s not far from Johns Hopkins University, I’d have thought their output would have been of much better quality: for a product bearing the name of a world famous institution of higher learning, this paperback is downright embarrassing. Perhaps the original hardcover edition, or a later printing (without the numerous jarring typos) would be more presentable.


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