This is a war book with a difference, covering the last eight months of the Second World War in Europe. Unlike most of its peers it a story not just of generals and battles, but of the suffering that goes with modern warfare, and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the various armies.
If you want a blow-by-blow account of the various battles of this period, Arnhem, the Oder crossing, the Battle of the Bulge, and lesser known, but no less lethal affairs such as Hurtgen Forest, then this is not the book for you. If you want to get some idea of what it was like to live an fight in northern Europe in the last months of the war, then I can't recommend a better book.
The book makes extensive use of eyewitness accounts from the civilians, soldiers, airmen, and prisoners to build a portrait of suffering that I have rarely previously encountered. As a game designer who has previously had a war game published, I've always worried about the inability of computer games to give an indication of what modern warfare means in human terms. This book brings it home in no uncertain fashion.
The book also makes an interesting assessment of how the different armies fought, and why they fought in the fashion they did. I don't necessarily agree with the conclusions, but I think they represent an important contribution to a debate that deserves more airing. Having said that, there is a definate tendency to preach. Hastings has a very clear set of political views, and in this aspect of the book he is clearly wants his view to prevail. Even so, as long as the reader is aware of this, Hastings' contribution to the debate is very valuable.