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  • Book Review: Gossip from the Forest

    Posted by David Foster on June 24th, 2019 (All posts by )

    Gossip from the Forest, by Thomas Keneally

    You are a politician and a government official, but without much in the way of real power.  You are not a member of the country’s elite class, and out of sympathy with many of the government’s policies.

    For the last four years, your country has been involved in a major war–a war that you initially supported.  But at least a year ago, you came to the conclusion that the war cannot be won, and that a peace treaty must be negotiated.  You have had no success, however, in convincing the parliament and the government of this view.

    Now, however, the leading generals have become convinced that a total and disastrous defeat is impending, and peace must be made immediately. Your country’s negotiating position at this point is not strong, to put it mildly.  And one of the small group selected to conduct the negotiations with the enemy is you.

    It gets worse.

     

    You will be not just a member, but the leader of the negotiating team.

    This all actually happened to Matthias Erzberger, the principal character in Keanally’s historical novel.  The negotiations referred to are of course the 1918 Armistice negotiations, conducted at a railway siding in the forest of Compiegne.  In addition to the other members of the German negotiating team, the characters include the French marshal Ferdinand Foch and his inseparable staff officer Maxime Weygand (who would command French armies during the last part of the disastrous campaign of 1940), the British First Sea Lord Rosslyn Wemyss and Rear Admiral George Hope, the Deputy First Sea Lord.

    I found it to be an interesting and engaging story (despite the fact that we all know the ending in advance), and deserving of better than the three stars it got on the Amazon reader reviews.  Follows the actual history reasonably closely, though there are are few deviations.

    There was apparently also a stage play and a video made based on this book, though I haven’t been able to locate any availability for the video.

     

    One Response to “Book Review: Gossip from the Forest

    1. Rich Rostrom Says:

      “no success”? Wiki sez that his “peace resolution” was passed by the Reichstag in July 1916 by a near-2/3 majority.

      Also, as co-leader of a major party, he was a major figure in politics.

      By 1918, he was viewed as the chief peace advocate in Germany.