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All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 [Paperback]

Max Hastings
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (279 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 April 2012

A magisterial history of the greatest and most terrible event in history, from one of the finest historians of the Second World War. A book which shows the impact of war upon hundreds of millions of people around the world- soldiers, sailors and airmen; housewives, farm workers and children..

Reflecting Max Hastings’s thirty-five years of research on World War II, All Hell Let Loose describes the course of events, but focuses chiefly upon human experience, which varied immensely from campaign to campaign, continent to continent.

The author emphasises the Russian front, where more than 90% of all German soldiers who perished met their fate. He argues that, while Hitler’s army often fought its battles brilliantly well, the Nazis conducted their war effort with ‘stunning incompetence’. He suggests that the Royal Navy and US Navy were their countries’ outstanding fighting services, while the industrial contribution of the United States was much more important to allied victory than that of the US Army.

The book ranges across a vast canvas, from the agony of Poland amid the September 1939 Nazi invasion, to the 1943 Bengal famine, in which at least a million people died under British rule- and British neglect. Among many vignettes, there are the RAF’s legendary raid on the Ruhr dams, the horrors of Arctic convoys, desert tank combat, jungle clashes. Some of Hastings’s insights and judgements will surprise students of the conflict, while there are vivid descriptions of the tragedies and triumphs of a host of ordinary people, in uniform and out of it.

‘The cliché is profoundly true’, he says. ‘The world between 1939 and 1945 saw some human beings plumb the depths of baseness, while others scaled the heights of courage and nobility’. This is ‘everyman’s story’, an attempt to answer the question: ‘What was the Second World War like ?’, and also an overview of the big picture. Max Hastings employs the technique which has made many of his previous books best-sellers, combining top-down analysis and bottom-up testimony to explore the meaning of this vast conflict both for its participants and for posterity.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007450729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007450725
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (279 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Max Hastings is the author of twenty-five books, many of them about war. He was educated at Charterhouse and University College, Oxford, which he quit after a year to become a journalist. Thereafter he reported for newspapers and BBC TV from sixty-four countries and eleven conflicts, notably the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Vietnam and the 1982 Battle for the Falklands. Between 1986 and 2002 he was editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph, then editor of the Evening Standard. He has won many prizes both for journalism and for his books, most recently the 2012 Chicago Pritzker Library's $100,000 literary award for his contribution to military history, and the RUSI's Westminster Medal for his international best-seller 'All Hell Let Loose'.

Product Description

Review

“This is the book he was born to write: a work of staggering scope and erudition, narrated with supreme fluency and insight, it is unquestionably the best single-volume history of the war ever written….. he writes with a wonderfully clear, unsentimental eye……and has a terrific grasp of the grand sweep and military strategy……But what makes his book a compelling read are the human stories……at the end of this gruesome, chilling but quite magnificent book, you never doubt that the war was worth fighting”. Sunday Times

“No other general history of the war amalgamates so successfully the gut-wrenching personal details and the essential strategic arguments. Melding the worm’s eye view and the big picture is a difficult trick to pull of – but Hastings has triumphed”. The Times

“majestic…it is impossible to emerge without a sense of the sheer scale of human tragedy…..To gather all these anecdotes together is a task in itself, but to assemble them in a way that makes sense is something entirely different….Hastings shapes all these stories, almost miraculously, into a single coherent narrative”. Daily Telegraph

“In this massive work, the crowning volume of the 10 impressive books he has written about the Second World War, Sir Max Hastings spares us nothing in portraying the sheer bloody savagery of the worst war that the world has yet seen….this magnificent book….is hypnotically readable from the first page to the last”. Sunday Telegraph

“a fast-moving, highly readable survey of the entire war…Hastings combines a mastery of the military events with invariably sound judgment and a sharp eye for unusual telling detail….this is military history at its most gripping. Of all Max Hastings’s valuable books, this is possibly his best – a veritable tour de force”. Evening Standard

About the Author

Max Hastings studied at Charterhouse and Oxford and became a foreign correspondent, reporting from more than sixty countries and eleven wars for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard. He has won many awards for his journalism. Among his best-selling books ‘Bomber Command’ won the Somerset Maugham Prize, and both ‘Overlord’ and ‘Battle for the Falklands’ won the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize. After ten years as editor and then editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, he became editor of the Evening Standard in 1996. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he was knighted in 2002. He now lives in Berkshire.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
253 of 259 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does he ever write a bad book? 16 Oct 2011
By Bobby Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I must confess I have read all of Mr Hastings past offerings concerning the Second World War, finding him to be consistently informative about the conflict that never ends - in publisher's eyes at least. In many ways a Hastings book is like your favourite grey cardigan, you slip it on, finding its feel both reassuring and comfy i.e you know what you will get. It is the same with this book, a general account of WW2 as seen by the grunt at the front or the person slaving away in a labour camp or factory. As ever, the usual suspects get a positive mention; the German army in retreat and Churchill as inspiring war leader. On the other hand, Mr Hastings 'controversial' views on the merits of the Australian armed forces also crop up again - a fact that will probably be picked up by some Aussie newspaper in the future.
Some real gems, however, are also to be found in this book, as Mr Hastings dips into aspects of the conflict often neglected in more precise histories of the war - for instance the partisan war that took place in Yugoslavia. Much of the book also concentrates on the Eastern Front struggle, correct in my view, given that 90% of German war deaths occurred in this theatre of war - a statistic that illustrates where the war was won and lost - although this does not diminish the sacrifices that other people made for freedom.
In short, most of the people who buy this will already be fans of Mr Hastings and thus will not be disappointed. To those who are not, I suggest this is a good starting point.
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88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent overview with some new accounts 3 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover
It is hard to find a narrative theme through a world war lasting for almost six years.

Weighing in at a huge 768 pages All Hell Let Loose certainly isn't a whistle stop tour through the conflict, and it doesn't dwell overlong on any particular areas.

The author himself in the forward says that he has deliberately steered clear of delving too deeply into the subjects of his previous books, so the fall of Berlin, the Overlord landings and the final days of Japan are barely commented on.

His researchers have dug up some interesting accounts, particularly from the Eastern front, and even long serving students of the second world war will find much new in the first person testimonies. This battlefield is firmly at the centre of the book - after all 90 per cent of the German fatalities occurred there and it is in Russia where the war was won and lost.

In a book of this scope one isn't really searching for a single revelation or argument. The conclusions - that the Russians would have won on their own, the Axis war effort was very incompetently run and by far and away the biggest allied contribution to victory was through America's industrial might - have been discussed in much greater depth elsewhere.

I felt that the biggest success of the book was how Hastings managed to convey the brutal indifference which characterised the Russian approach to victory - happily accepting enormous piles of their own dead with unimaginative tactics to eventually wear down the Wehrmacht.

The British don't come out overly well - our `finest hour' was having the courage, bolstered by the rhetoric and bulldog spirit of Winston Churchill, to stay in the war alone in 1940.
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106 of 115 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sir Max Hastings - "War is all hell" 17 Oct 2011
By Red on Black TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Do we really need another general history of World War II? In recent years we have seen new studies by Evan Mawdsley, Martin Gilbert and in particular Andrew Roberts excellent populist history "The Storm of War" to name but a few. The years 1939 to 1945 are a very crowded field for historians and yet there is always a warm welcome for an historian of the calibre of Sir Max Hastings, recent chronicler of Churchill as a wartime leader and political commentator. Hastings is a conservative historian but what is interesting about "All hell let loose - the World at War 1939-45" is that employs the approach of producing an history from below drawn from eyewitness accounts of events. Accounts which in turn demonstrate and confirm William Sherman's maxim "that war is all hell" since we see an overwhelming view of very brave participants who are nonetheless generally terrified, demoralized and often beaten into a fossilised torpor. One British solider reflected in a letter to his wife that `I am absolutely fed up with everything. The dirt and filth, the flies - I'm having a hideous time and I wonder why I'm alive'. Another British soldier William Chappell "never ceased to ache for the civilian world from which he had been torn. He missed his home and his friends and bemoaned the loss of his career. His feet hurt, he was `sick of khaki, and all the monotonous, slow, fiddle-de-dee of Army life.' The fatalistic will of Russian soldiers is particularly well described not least the experience of Private Ivanov, of the 70th Army, who wrote despairingly to his family. `I shall never see you again because death, terrible, ruthless and merciless, is going to cut short my young life. Where shall I find strength and courage to live through all this? Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
Bought this for my dad who is a lover of anything WAR. He really enjoyed this book, so I intend to buy him some more for Fathers Day/Birthday/Christmas etc...
Published 10 days ago by Vixx H
4.0 out of 5 stars Max Hastings all he'll let loose
Readable and Frank in opinions of miss deeds by all sides but not acting as an apologist for Germany and Japan who share the responsibilities for the conflict .
Published 15 days ago by mr patrick m doyle
5.0 out of 5 stars great book about The 39-45 War
Sir Max Hastings is a masterful historian and this book is outstanding. I learned that much of my previous knowledge of this terrible war was wrong; North Africa was a bit of a... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Anthony Peake
5.0 out of 5 stars All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings
Max Hastings tells the comprehensive tale of World War 2, from the invasion of Poland to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in a masterly tome which the reader finds hard to put down. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Carroty Nell
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful account of a world tragedy
A balanced and considered telling that is never boring yet includes a surprisingly amount of personal details many of which I was reading for the first-time. Read more
Published 24 days ago by BRIAN ROBINSON
1.0 out of 5 stars A very disappointing attempt to tell the story of Workd War II
Not so much a history as a journalists rant; Hastings' prejudices and hubris strike the reader with greater strength and clarity than do the facts. Read more
Published 25 days ago by James Meade Clifford and Candover Ltd
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, eloquent history
An excellent book by Max Hastings. Yes, it is long but I have never read such an inclusive account of the conflict that is WW2. Highly recommended.
Published 26 days ago by Bruce Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars very we'll written
This is an amazing Book that goes into great detail on various aspects of WW2. There are many facts in the book that highlight the true victims of war, and the truth behind key... Read more
Published 28 days ago by T. Gardner
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book
Excellent, so insightful. Its a must read for anyone who wants to get an excellent overview of WWII. I would recomend this book.
Published 29 days ago by Vincent.Hannon
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, detailed and readable
Max Hastings combines being a very good writer with having a scholarly approach and he obviously put a lot of hard work into this weighty book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by W. Tegner
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