Quite a clever construct, using short narratives or biographical information. the author pieces together the world using notable personages as a guide to the world in the year before the Great War was fought.
So many interesting tidbits, including the Lutz, the skater jump, this was apparently the year that this was first performed by a man named Lutz of course. A young Hitler recently rejected from art school, Stalin, Lenin, the theft of the Mona Lisa. Getrude Stein, Picasso, who had to provide an alibi for the time of the theft, Freud and even his cat.
While this was informative and entertaining reading, the broken up pieces only give a wide view of the world, not a particularly cohesive one. I think it is important to know this so that the reader realizes this and knows what to expect.