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I thought this a really excellent analytical look at post-WWII European history. This isn't straight history, it is historical analysis. The author has a point of view and he isn't shy about sharing it.
That being said, it is way too long and complex for audio to be its best vehicle. Yes, you can listen to it, but no, it wouldn't be my first choice. Lacking access to an index or the ability to flip back and reread a section to establish a context for what the author is currently discussing, I couldn't get as much out of this as I would have liked.
Well written and competently read, there are obvious edits and issues with consistent recording levels that are unacceptable and should be fixed.
The narrator is good, not exceptional. It's definitely worth your time ... but read it in print too.
56 of 57 people found this review helpful
Having grown up in the period following the Second World War and having read a great deal about world events during this period I assumed that I knew most of what would be covered by this book but thought that a British view of European history might be both more interesting and more informed than what I had read previously and hence worth reading. I had no idea how little of what this book covers I actually knew.
I have read many history books covering Europe since the Napoleonic Wars and expected this book to be written in a similar way – an accent on political events, the effect of new weapons on policy and the impact of world leaders on the events in their respective nations as well as those around them. I was both disappointed and pleased to find that this book is a very different type of history. World shaping events, such as the fall of communism and the liberation of the Eastern European nations from the Soviet grip, were covered relatively quickly (the decade of the fall of communism’s power over Eastern Europe was covered in one chapter) while extensive coverage is given to the intellectual basis for and philosophies of the pro-communist and anti-American movements. While some of the wars of the period are covered (for example the British, French and Israeli war against Egypt and the war after the breakup of Yugoslavia) these type of events do not seem to be the main area of interest for Mr Judt.
Some examples of subjects covered by this book are the intellectual's blindness to Stalin’s terror, the large numbers of displaced persons left at the end of the Second World War and the resulting "ethnic cleansing" that took place with the cooperation of the Allies, the origins of and comparisons between the Social Democratic systems in Scandinavia, the spreading role of government in culture and the arts and the expanding role of European theaters and film. Mr Judt’s argument seems to be that these events and trends had much to do with the new shape that Europe was taking after the end of the war. I can only concur and think that the view of history that I had before reading this book was too narrow and simple.
This is a very opinionated book. Much of what is presented as fact seems to be largely opinion. One example would be Mr Judt’s snide references to those who doubted the ability of the southern European nations to control their expenses enough to properly qualify for entry to the Euro zone. He sneered at those concerns and spoke of the financial probity of these nations, but we know now, of course, that he was completely wrong. It was not his being wrong that bothered me but rather his sneering reference to those who turned out to be right. Another example is his off-hand dismissal of Margaret Thatcher and her views with no facts presented to buttress his statements.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this book was written by a British author and so the book contains a large number of British terms with which the reader may be unfamiliar. Examples are use of the world valve instead of tube, use of the phrase “put paid to”, the British value of thousand billion instead of trillion, the phrase "plastic macs" and so on. Another concern is the use of French, German and Italian phrases with no English translations with the view, I assume, that anyone intelligent enough to read this book would know the languages in question.
Still, in spite of all, I think this is a book well worth reading. The narration is first class and I would recommend it to those who would like to know more about the post war development of the modern Europe as explained by someone without a US world view.
40 of 41 people found this review helpful
I was looking for a book that explained the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and thought I might as well get the rest of Europe and 1945-2005 thrown in for the same price, as it were. I ended up living with this book all summer. It is stunning. And it did explain what went on in Yugoslavia very concisely.
Tony Judt does an amazing job of organising and presenting many threads from all over Europe (including Russia, Ireland, Eastern Europe through the cold war years, right up through the European Treaties that are causing so much angst today). Judt is never shy to give opinions and make judgements, to analyse and explain: it is far from history as one damn fact after another. For a person of my age - who grew up through this period - it explains the background behind and significance of all the half-noted, half-understood news reports of the 60s, 70s, 80s... really a wonderful cornucopia, too much to take in on one reading.
Narration. Sadly, not good enough for the quality of the subject and writing. Ralph Cosham manages to sound like the quintessential boring history teacher, droning on at the front of the class on a sunny afternoon. However, the book is so well constructed and so full of interest that this voice is a cost you just have to cope with.
23 of 23 people found this review helpful
This is a very thorough review of European history since WWII. I really enjoyed it; it refreshed my memory about things I'd forgotten and filled in a lot of gaps. My only gripe is the reader - I know history can be a bit of an arid subject to deliver out loud but I found the reader very wooden and his voice really annoyed me by the end.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
Sometimes the numbers got hard to follow but overall a very good book about the post-war era.
wonderful review of European history after the second world war. very thorough. wonderful performance by Ralph Cosham. I could listen to him read shopping lists he's so good.