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"This is a self-consciously contrary book, cutting against the grain of much self-congratulatory Western writing since 1945." (London Sunday Telegraph)
"Davies' topical approach judiciously surveys the military, economic and political aspects of the war....His interpretations rest on solid scholarly work." (Publishers Weekly)
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By Nikoli Gogol on 12-27-07
The Best Account of WWII in Europe
Norman Davies previously wrote a textbook in use in entry level university courses about the history of Europe. His persistent theme is that western European history is overemphasized and eastern European history is ignored.
In this book, the scope of the war is presented from the view of the real participants. Davies takes apart the notion that the Germans and Russians were the major participants and chronicles the war from the standpoint of Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries which were the battleground for most of the war. These countries were either brutalized by Stalin before the war or invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939 after the pact between Hitler and Stalin. The losses of these countries are put in a context of losses of other participants. The Soviet style of fighting is described where the KGB formed blocking battalions which shot anyone who retreated, regardless if the soldier was wounded or out of ammunition. After WWII, any repatriated Soviet POW was imprisoned in the Gulag. Stalin fought civil wars during WWII and the aftermath of these wars is now being played out in places like Chechnya.
Davies does not ignore other theatres of operation or other participants in the war. He assess the fighting ability of the various countries, for instance showing that Britain had an awesome navy but a deficient army.
The book is topical, eg, Davies uses headings like armaments, civilians, aftermath, collaborators, etc.
This is the best book I read in 2007. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It will change the way you view WWII.
28 of 28 people found this review helpful
By Amazon Customer on 11-28-10
Although little in this volume can be described as revolutionary, there is a great deal of insightful commentary and fresh perspective. The central thesis of the book - that the war in Europe was won chiefly by the USSR ("Saving Private Ryan" notwithstanding), and that the USSR was, in some ways, as bad as the regime it defeated - is probably under-appreciated in the US, but the point does not seem particularly controversial.
Whatever the merits of the book may be, what made it incredibly enjoyable was, without a doubt, the voice of Simon Vance. The tone and tempo of his reading were perfect. The scorn dripping from his voice as he speaks of those treated too generously by history, in particular Stalin (the "monstah"), is nothing short of delicious.
Good book, narrated brilliantly.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful