I first read this splendid one-volume history of the Russo-German conflict of WW2 more than thirty years ago and its immediacy, masterful simplification of complex campaigns and operations, colourful evocations of heroism and cowardice and outright pathos have never left me. This is not a detailed history and the concentration is on a few major, but decisive, campaigns but these are covered with such verve that the reader is quite likely to be fascinated by the subject for the rest of their lives, and to seek out ever more thereafter. Though meticulous in his descriptions and evaluations, Clark is never a neutral observer - and this is probably what makes the book so totally unforgettable even down to individual episodes. His judgements on men can be devastating - his summary of the clownish ineptitude and outdated heroics of Budenny is as succinct and merciless as anything in Gibbon - and his accounts of epic-scale actions never fail to reflect the human cost. The image of hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners trudging towards starvation, slave labour and medical experiments after the great 1941encirclement battles in the Ukraine, and of isolated pockets fighting to the last man, as loudspeakers relayed the exhortations of Stalin, will stay with the reader forever. Clark's account of Stalingrad was powerful enough to send my wife and myself to the city itself within months of reading the book - a powerful and unforgettable experience. Clark did not just give us the feel the nightmare of street fighting across entire square miles of blazing ruins and factories, but he helped us visualise the abject misery of the Sixth Army's entombed survivors as, in the unlikely surroundings of a rebuilt department store's basement, we found the spot where von Paulus surrendered. Simultaneously, we were conscious that somewhere to the west that von Manstein's relief forces were stalled, supplies packed in trucks that included even British vehicles captured at Dunkirk eighteen months before. By such details is history brought alive. The section on Kursk could almost stand alone as a modern Illiad and description of the destruction of Army Group Centre, and of the final battles in Germany itself, conveys the full horror of what it means to be part of a hitherto coherent organism in terminal collapse. I came to this book again when my daughter asked me to recommend an introduction to the subject - and from her enthusiasm, three decades on, I sensed that in this book we probably have a timeless classic. Other books deal with the Great Patriotic War in greater detail - commander's accounts, of which the best is probably von Manstein's "Lost Victories", war-correspondent's accounts like Alexander Werth's "Russia at War" or Curzio Malapartre's searing "The Volga rises in Europe", modern reassessments of specific campaigns like Anthony Beevor's superb "Stalingrad" and popular histories like Harrison Salisbury's "The Thousand Days" - but none can equal this as an introduction and as an overview. By the sweep of the narrative, by the elegance of the prose, by the power of the imagery and, above all, by the sheer humanity of tone, this marvellous history justifies Alan Clark's entire life. A wonderful book.