This is a very readable portrait of Hitler which can be digested in a few hours. There are times when you might feel the word "charisma" is being shoe-horned into the text to maintain a theme rather than becoming just another biography, but on the whole it works - even if there are occasionally some sweeping conclusions on which bits of some people's testimony we can take at face-value, and which bits we can't.
But Rees has succeeded in writing a book that moves along at a good pace, and he rightly devotes more time to Hitler's rise to power than the 1942-5 era - it's more interesting to learn how such an unpromising individual could somehow emerge as a leader, not just of an extremist movement but of a whole country, persuading large numbers of highly intelligent and seemingly rational people to follow him in blind faith. As Rees observes, Hitler hypnotised no-one. And how he retained power when things went against him is also explored - essentially fear, and a feeling from people that they were already in too deep, are Rees' main conclusions.
Rees doesn't deviate from the familiar view that Hitler's rise was largely a product of political and economic circumstance, but he draws a very effective picture of the dictator's special ability to tell the people what they wanted to hear and to connect with crowds, even though he was often useless in smaller groups, struggled to form relationships and had no debating skill whatsoever. At the same time, he pulls together the narrative threads around this confusing and contradictory character - setting Hitler's charisma against different events as they occurred, and also making observations about his leadership style (and how it differed from the likes of Stalin and Mussolini).
Hitler still emerges as the same appalling character, no matter which angle you view him from. But Rees helps our understanding of how such a man could have succeeded, and that's a useful and thought provoking service for us all.