This thin, but handsomely produced hardback is a glimpse of what Europe looked like to an American and his family at the outset of World War I. It’s the first-person chronicle of T. Tileston Wells, a New York attorney who sailed for the continent little knowing that prior to arrival, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be assassinated.
Already in Paris, and with the drums of war rumbling, an ill-advised decision is made to continue the family’s vacation with a trip through Austria. However the further they go, the more they realize that mobilization for war is in full swing. Wells chooses to head for Italy, believing it will be the safest way to begin their trip home. In Riva though, he’s accused of being a Russian spy and only convinces authorities otherwise by producing a letter of introduction from American Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan. Then, in Venice, impending fear of war has caused financial hysteria and it’s rumored that even New York banks are failing, making securing additional cash virtually impossible. So from Florence to Rome to Naples they journey, eventually gaining passage on a steamer to Boston.
The family’s adventure is earnestly captured in Wells’ own words. However it’s enhanced greatly by the writing and editing skills of Kelly. He adds historical context, information regarding different countries’ agendas and different individuals’ motivations, plus a wealth of photographs and illustrations that help the tumultuous times spring vividly to life. This is history carefully crafted and painstakingly packaged—and it’s all in the family. Editor Kelly is author Wells' great-grandson.