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There are many alternatives if you are looking for books about WW2. I recently read the not so creatively named "second world war" by Anthony Beevor, a thousand page book that gives the reader a comprehensive account of the entire war.
All hell breaks loose is in many ways similar to Beevors book, however, it did not seem to put as much emphasis on covering all aspects of the war. Instead this book frequently quoted personal correspondence from people who were involved in the war. Indeed I think that this is the primary reason why someone should choose rather than some other book.
You often read or hear about wars and the number of fatalities and how many starved etc etc, however, it is very hard to take the perspective of the individuals involved. The letters and diaries in this book takes you one step closer. Upon reading such material you can easily feel a bit ill (unless you are a complete psychopath), but at least for me the stronger feeling is one of gratitude that you have not been caught up in a war...
Reviewing my notes on this book I realized that it also contained quite a bit of information that was new to me, things that I had not considered important before. For example, the author convincingly argues that had Germany not attacked England with their airforce, England would not have been able to maintain the moral of their army and the political climate would probably have swayed towards peace with Hitler.
Another slightly comical story relates to Italy's inability to do, well, anything at all. As a part of a propaganda stunt meant to demonstrate the superiority of the Italians, a boxing fight was arranged between a famous boxer and an African man woo had never boxed before. Much to Mussolini dismay, the African man knocked the professional Italian boxer unconscious...
All in all, this book is kind of average if you are looking to get an overview of the war, however if you want to understand better what it was like for the soldiers and civilians who were actually involved in the war, this book is a sound choice. It is not that optimistic to suggest that there will be no conflict as destructive as WW2 again.
Any additional comments?
The best narrator in the business. Sheer pleasure to listen, even if you are not interested in WWII. Cameron Stewart should cover all the books in the store, and earn tonnes of money for his narration.
This is a very long book, but I was gripped throughout by the fast-paced narrative that illuminated the horrors of war and the extraordinary heroism of the men and women who put up with unspeakable conditions in all the theatres of war. The basic details of the war are well-known but where this book excels is in combining the global/national facts with extensive material from letters and diaries that more than anything evoke what it was really like on the ground, in the air, and on and under the seas.
This is no jingoistic telling of WWII from the British perspective. The failings, mistakes and barbarities of all the protagonists are revealed, often with hindsight as the author acknowledges.
It’s not a book to be ‘enjoyed’ as the sheer number of people killed was enormous and the devastation of parts of the world catastrophic for many years after the war, however I finished the book feeling humbled by what the generation before mine had endured.
It’s a salutary reminder that megalomaniacs, such as Hitler and Stalin, can galvanise such monumental horrors in the 20th century and depressing that people are still enduring these tyrants and horrors on Europe’s doorstep.
The narrator is superb.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
A balanced and unbiased look at the second world war from the perspective of not only the military and political leaders of the time but if the normal everyday people that experienced the horror of war themselves.
This is a book that I can see myself revisiting time and time again.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What a brilliant overview of WW2 - a detailed study of the world-wide nature of the war. The follies of leaders, the bravery of partisans, the enormous depths to which ordinary men and women can sink. All told with even-handednesss and with no gilding of the lily. Thankyou Max Hastings for the best and most enthralling telling of the story I have so far come across.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Max Hastings has excelled with this comprehensive treatise on privations suffered by all peoples, including non combatants, as a consequence of World War 2. Well written and beautifully read.