This fascinating book, thick with historical data and insights, makes a riveting read. Whilst having no wish to quarrel with previous reviewers, for this reviewer, the book's strength is to be found within the all too rare combination of the elucidation of pertinent details and the subsequent compilation and marshaling of this data in order to reach coherent conclusions. The hi-lighting of detailed minutiae is only of secondary value, it would appear, if any historical advances are unable to be procured from it. Fortunately, this fastidiously researched volume abounds in both.
It is a lengthy read, at round 670 pages, and is at times dense in the chronicled information it conveys. It is an honest read, too, and this reviewer proffers that an alternative title could well have been formed along the lines of 'How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke very nearly didn't Win the War in the West'! Indeed, some readers - especially those none too conversant with the internecine bickering that went on in and around the corridors of power prior to the D-Day Landings, for example - might be quite take aback at the apparent abrasiveness and the various fractious dealings which formed part of the staple diet of 'Allied' conferences, rhetoric and debate.
This reviewer would want to take issue with one or two points in previous press reviews which have suggested that, whilst Andrew Roberts' book remains a immense achievement, it establishes and thus contributes only slight, minor historical detail to the ongoing research into the WWII fray. Surely this is both to ignore key passages and sections of the book and to miss the point. Firstly, from an historical perspective, Roberts has successfully revealed a number of new 'primary' sources (in the forms of 'oral' reports and written chronicles, diaries et al) and, secondly, this information helps us to somewhat 'recalibrate' certainly, and possibly even to reassess the methods and the roles of a number of key policymakers. Again, this would appear to illustrate the author's successful achievement in having interpreted the mass of available data and having translated this into 'applied history'.
There is plenty of historical meat within this work and it should appeal to the interested/well-informed general reader on the one hand and the historian (and possibly even the military tactician) on the other. IThis reviewer found the sections relating to the Allies' 'sweep' across Europe especially interesting and I must congratulate Andrew Roberts on handling the material (which remains a sensitive substance within certain quarters and factions) very well, with confidence and authority. Narratives pertaining to the reticence with which Brooke approached the invasion of France, the mood swings and what amounted to the basic pessimism of Churchill et al will never sit easily with some, yet to gloss over delicate topics such as these would be to gloss over history and to, ultimately misrepresent it. As Quiller-Couch put it, we sometimes have to be prepared 'to murder our darlings' ... occasionally these need to be historical or conceptual little treasures, too!
In a nutshell, this volume accomplishes a great deal, to the mind of this reviewer, at least. It is eminently readable, dense with data, and offers measurable and definite conclusions based on the material within. As ever, this work, too, will now be subject to the rigours of historic analysis itself. This reviewer suspects that it will fair pretty well.
Michael Calum Jacques (author of '1st Century Radical: the shadowy origins of the man who became known as Jesus Christ')