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Blood, Tears, and Folly: An Objective Look at World War II [Paperback]

Len Deighton , Denis Bishop

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Book Description

30 Dec 2005
This study sets the drama of war on a world stage, and examines why, 50 years on, the lessons of World War II - when humanity was consumed by violence and destruction - still reverberate unheeded. Beginning with the political and industrial roots in the Great War of 1914-1918, Deighton unfolds the advance of the Axis powers from the Battle of the Atlantic to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. By 1942, the civilized world was brought to the brink of ruin. Yet now again racial hatred rears its head, turmoil continues over Middle-Eastern oil, Britain neglects education and its industrial base, and recession threatens new trade wars and economic migration on a fightening scale. Len Deighton is the author of "Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain", "The Battle of Britain" and "Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk". He is also the author of the spy novels, "The Ipcress File" and "Game, Set and Match".
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 653 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; Reprint edition (30 Dec 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060925574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060925574
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 4.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 990,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in London, Len Deighton served in the RAF before graduating from the Royal College of Art (which recently elected him a Senior Fellow). While in New York City working as a magazine illustrator he began writing his first novel, The Ipcress File, which was published in 1962. He is now the author of more than thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. At present living in Europe, he has, over the years, lived with his family in ten different countries from Austria to Portugal.

Product Description


This is an absolute landmark as regards the history of the Second World War. It is a remarkable achievement... There is quite simply no-one to touch Len Deighton as a historian of that conflict. (Jack Higgins )

Blood, Tears and Folly, his most ambitious book yet, is a global history of "the darkest hour of the Second World War", from the invasion of Czechoslovakia to the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Each section, moreover, is set against a deep background which locates the particular chain of events in a large historical perspective... What wonderful stuff it is! Every page of Deighton's work glows with the excitement of discovery. (Geoff Dyer Guardian )

His instinct for reality is as sharp as his ability to convey it. (Martin Gilbert Sunday Times )

Here is historical "truth" of a type which will not date, as the sometimes arid debates of professional historians can. (Keith Jeffery The Times Literary Supplement )

A splendid read. He has a novelist's eye for the sort of facts that bring a narrative to life. (John Grigg Evening Standard ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

After Fighter and Blitzkrieg, Len Deighton now sets a drama of war on a world stage, revealing the reality of global conflict in moving individual accounts by participants at every level. 'Remarkable and absorbing. . . an absolute landmark as regards the history of the Second World War.' Jack Higgins (19941206) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant gem in the rough 8 Jun 2011
By Bally Scotsman - Published on Amazon.com
This is a great big fat sprawling unruly kind of history - one wonders whether the sub-title "an objective look at WWII" was intended tongue-in-cheek - idiosyncratic, occasionally undisciplined, often contentious, but never boring. In fact only the early stages of the war are covered, as well as the various elements leading up to it; one would have hoped for a sequel treating the rest of the conflict, alas, no.

One could certainly understand a reader's initial frustration if he expected a straightforward, conventional narrative of events, presented matter-of-factly in suitable scholarly prose, but if one indulges the author his quirks and permits him to give vent to his considerable spleen, one will find much that is useful here, and a memorable journey through some familiar and not-so-familiar (usually U-boat infested) waters. In some respects the book resembles a tapestry: intricate, colourful, and definitely hand-woven.

A few corrections and cautions:

p44: "On July 24, 1939, with war only a week away..." At first glance one would suppose this should have read August 24, a week before the German invasion of Poland, but the meeting of Polish, British, and French cryptographers being related here did in fact occur on July 24.

p137: A map of the Maginot Line fortifications labels the Alsace region as "Alsace-Loraine." It is perhaps insufficiently understood outside France, that Lorraine is a distinct geographic region and political district to the west-northwest of Alsace, despite the conflation of the two in the Anglo-American mind, merely because they have often shared the same historical fate of conquest and reconquest.

German paratroop commander Kurt Student is frequently, though not invariably, referred to as Karl Student. Thankfully, we are not introduced to Ernst Rommel or Herbert von Goring.

p506: "Japanese warships inflicted a naval victory upon the Chinese." Ah, the agony of victory...

On p529, the author attempts to isolate Dean Acheson as the singular cause of the futility of US-Japanese negotiations in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor, as if the Japanese military faction, long since bent on attack, could have been dissuaded with economic concessions.

Worse, the author takes the unconscionably simplistic view that "despite all the Nazi talk of living space in the east, the German armies invaded the Soviet Union because Hitler and his SS men wanted to murder the Jews and the Bolsheviks." This sweeping disregard for economic, geo-political, and military-strategic factors can scarcely be excused, and it likewise ignores the incremental and often inconsistent manner in which Nazi policy evolved from expulsion to ghettoisation to genocide.

There are other points of controversy, to be sure, some of which do rather more successfully challenge the received canon of historical wisdom. And there is a great deal of information besides. Withal, to be recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd book, but worth the read 4 May 2010
By John M. Hammond - Published on Amazon.com
I wouldn't recommend this as a first book on WWII. There are chronological narrative histories more suitable for someone just beginning to tackle this broad subject. However, if you've read Shirer, Keegan, Weinberg, etc. this might be a good supplement as Deighton has some strong, contrary opinions about some of the strategies and personalities of the war. To name just a few, he thinks Rommel was a poor army commander and should never have been promoted above divisional command. He describes how the "man who won the Battle of Britain," Hugh Dowding, was out-maneuvered politically by subordinates Leigh-Mallory and Sholto Douglas, who used their connections to have Dowding sacked from Fighter Command. And he rightly finds fault with USN Chief Admiral King for his negligence in preparing the US fleet for submarine warfare in the Atlantic after the US entered the war. If you read S.E. Morrison, Ernest King practically walks on water.
But to Deighton's credit he backs up everything he writes with copious footnotes and references to other writers. I found his candor refreshing. The book really jumps around and really only attempts to address the first 3 years of the war. The last chapters deal with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Southwest Pacific. The section on the War in Russia end with the December, 1941 battle in front of Moscow, where we are lead to believe the turning point occurred....with nary a mention of Stalingrad or Kursk. But all-in-all it was an enjoyable read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INTERESTING BUT DISORGANIZED 17 Jun 1998
By JACK WHITE - Published on Amazon.com
This is one of the most interesting books on WW2 that I have evere read. The main point of the book is that Germanys initial successes wer due to the impressive ste of German institutions prior to WW2. Hitler inherited an impressive war machine and a highly educated poulation. Because Hitler was able to reduce unemployment and reinstate self respect, Gitler was able to mobilize the poulation for a war taht they would not have wanted. By contrast, pre ww2 England had a low level of education, was almost bancrupt and had a military institution that was thinking in 19th centuary terms. however when the chips were down British ingenuiuty often overcame German thourougness Deighton overwhelms us with facinating details i.e. onyl 30% of Germasn U boats ever sunk a ship, the 1940 French Airforce was qualitively and quantitively saupirior to the Luftwaffe, England hads never designed a successful tank. My main critiscism is that the contents are somewhat disorganised. THis book is obviously a work of love rather than scolarship. By andlarge Deighton has got it right. In some ways he reminds me of Davide Irvine where an amature rights a far more perceptive work than most professional historians. finaslly I found Deightons knowledge of military equipment and ordanace fascinating.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Read 19 Mar 2010
By Will R. Volny - Published on Amazon.com
I was hesitant to pick up the book when I did, because at 600+ pages, I wasn't sure I'd have the time based on other constraintsin my life. However, when I started to dig in, I found the book an extremely rapid read and well worth it. I find that although I'm fairly well read with regard to the topic of World War II, Deighton did not fail to bring forth a fact I did not know, or a perspective from which I had not viewed those facts. I see, in some of the other reviews of this book, that Deighton may have messed up a bit with history; if so, my other readings will put those bits back in the correct place for my mind's mosaic. What I find most enjoyable is Deighton's writing style which allows the eyes and brain to keep up and quickly absorb what he has to say. I am not usually given to reading popular overviews of World War II, but in this text he went into enough detail to satisfy my need for learning something new. If one is an absolute die hard expert on WWII, I might steer clear of this; you probably know all of this already and you'll need more charts and graphs than are presented here. He does go into some weaponry comparisons that are worth knowing and he makes interesting conclusions about why battles and the war was won, and often they are based on weapon performance and economics (makes more sense than does 'the will to win.').
5.0 out of 5 stars Did we win or did our enemies lose? 20 Feb 2014
By Leonard E - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A really well reasoned analysis, with interest, to caution anyone, anywhere to really examine whether a nation really knows how to conduct a war. This applies to normally belligerent nations and those who look only to survive.
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