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on 1 December 2007
Beevor has succeeded in weaving a compelling, thoroughly researched piece of work documenting one of the darkest periods in modern history. The enormity of catastrophe that befalls first the Soviet citizen and Red Army following Germany's invasion, right through to the encirclement and starvation of the German Sixth Army, are described in a riveting (and sobering) detail. The earlier chapters of the book deal with the events that lead to the battle of Stalingrad, although obviously in much less detail than the battle itself (or else the book would span volumes). Where the book really shines, is it's readability - Beevor has the rare qualities of being both an expert historian and a storyteller at the height of his powers. He skilfully interweaves political events, battles, enormous acts of cruelty, military incompetence and personal suffering with staggering acts of heroism and self sacrifice. One of the best books I have ever read - and one that highlights why worlds should be moved to prevent war.
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on 13 January 2004
Stalingrad is a superb book. Before reading it I had no knowledge of the eastern front, but Antony Beevor's account has compelled me to find out more. The book not only provides a full account of the battle, but an overview of Operation Barbarossa and the strategy in southern Russia. The books main triumph lies in its ability to relate the story from both the German and Russian perspectives of the battle, from an ordinary soldier's point of view as well as the Generals and of course Stalin and Hitler. The author's use of different sources is unbelievable, although I think it could have done with a few more personal accounts - but this is a very minor gripe. With violence portrayed on TV so much, you might think we have been made unshockable (if thats a word) towards war stories, but I definately felt sickened by what I read in this book, especially towards the end with the subjugation of the Sixth Army. It may be that the Stalingrad story is just so unbelievable that it makes this book stand out, but Beevor is as competent an author as any in helping the reader truly understand. Stalingrad is the definitve account of the most momentous event of W.W.2.
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on 1 February 2000
This book is probably one of the best I've read about WWII and one of the most accessible. It brings to life the futility of war and the insanity of both Hitler and Stalin. In these pages - their disregard for the lives of their soldiers is brought brilliantly to life. I didn't want to put the book down!
Operation Barbarossa proved to be one of the key turning points of World War II. This book provides the perspective to understand so much of what happened and why. Hitlers inability to trust his generals and their lack of courage in acting against him becomes clear through the actions of the high command at Stalingrad. Through Anthony Beevors descriptions of the sacrifice of the Sixth Army you find yourself asking the question - what would have happened if the British army at Dunkirk had received similar suicidal orders ?
The stories of horror and courage at Stalingrad are numerous but the book never descends into cheap emotion and always maintains it's objectivity. It helps you understand the military and political machinations during the battle - empathising without being partisan.
It's stunning to learn the level of callousness displayed by both Stalin and the German army towards ordinary Russian soldiers during and after the campaign. The bravery of all the ordinary participants but espeically the average Russian soldiers and civillians cries out to you. This book astounded me with the portrayal of the human capacity to overcome adversity - it inspired me and made me cry. It'll help you understand not only Stalingrad but also beyond. It gave me an insight into both the Russian people during WWII and the events during the Russian advance through Germany. Read it!
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on 5 February 2002
This big, thick tome was a bestseller when it came out, and it's not hard to see why - it's a gripping, well-written account of probably the grimmest, bleakest battle of the Second World War. Although the battle ended with the German army suffering a terrible loss, the book wisely generates no sense of triumph - both Russian and German armies endured enormous casualties, whilst the city of Stalingrad itself was transformed into a wasteland. Even those lucky enough to survive the battle were either marched to death in brutal captivity, or thrown straight at the German lines.
Particularly interesting is Beevor's research into the Russian army's ruthless intelligence service (which gave the soldiers a stark choice between possible death in combat, or certain death by firing squad), and the great rate of desertion, a state of affairs which resulted in Germans being press-ganged into Russian service, and Russian deserters fighting for the Germans.
All in all, this is a superb book. Whilst other reviews mention the near-contemporary 'Enemy at the Gates', it's also worth mentioning a german film called 'Stalingrad' which was released in the early-90s, and was apparently much better.
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on 26 November 2007
I have read and re-read this book because of its brilliance. It is chilling but very very accessible. The humanity and inhumanity is so well written that it appears almost to be a work of fiction. You do not need to be an avid war historian to enjoy this book as I found most of the interesting parts to be on the day to day life in the kessel and the slow ebbing away of all hope that the 6th army would be saved. The letters home are particularly sad, many were found in a mail sack of a plane that was shot down by the Russians.

This book should be used in schools to highlight the desperation and reality of war.
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on 1 January 2010
There is probably is little more I can add that hasn't already been said about this book, other than add to the weight of opinion that it is a very, very, very good read indeed.

It's no small thing to string together an event of such enormous importance as the events at Stalingrad, the months and indeed years that preceded and followed the battle, the thousands of miles of terrain relevant to the conflict; and the millions of lives caught up in such apocalyptic events.

But, as in his book about the battle of Berlin, Beevor manages this admirably. He has a real gift for conveying tactical events infused with the humanizing voices and characters of an enormous cast of characters, from Hitler and Stalin, their Generals and senior officers, to ordinary soldiers and civilians. The equal weight given to contemporary voices ensures that this book is no dry history lesson- the narrative is grand and yet personal at the same time.

This book is very popular, and deservedly so. A real page turner.
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on 18 October 2000
In this masterpiece of non-fiction Beevor has captured the sheer tragedy and horror of the most decisive battle in the Second World War.
Researching and collating letters written from soldiers of all ranks to their families during the six-month battle brings a new dimension to the storytelling of this epic struggle. How Beevor entwines excerpts from these letters into the narrative is exceptional, revealing the true thoughts of the Russian soldiers doomed in the besieged city to the German soldiers eventual realisation that they were being left as a sacrifice by their Furher.
Beevor gives the reader a glancing insight into the political leaders stubborn control of the battle and the eventual effect that the conclusion had on their futures and the remainder of the 20th century.
If you only ever buy one book on the Eastern Front then this should be the one.
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on 11 July 1999
Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad is a "must read" book. We have read other accounts of the battle that consumed Hitler's evil schemes -- and good accounts too. This is different though. It reads "real." It doesn't matter whether you're a military history buff or simply an interested reader. Beevor's Stalingrad has the rare quality of bringing you truly close to the high drama -- almost physically! As the narrative unfolds and the Russian winter arrives with a vengeance, you can feel the chill in your bones... You find yourself instinctively thinking about the merits of good cover, the need to camouflage your position, the fear of being targeted by snipers. Over the years, I have read enough war history to last me an eon. Beevor's book though read fresh and frantically authentic. And as I turned the pages I became more and more convinced that Stalingrad should become required reading for our modern "decision makers," who increasingly appear unable to grasp the lessons from recent history (not to speak of those of more distant epochs). The misery and horror of the battlefield, the unspeakable cruelty of humans becoming killing tools, the awe-inspiring descriptions of the disintegration of mind, body, and soul give Beevor's book an extraordinary quality. I was particularly pleased by the author's choice to avoid producing a text densely dotted with footnotes and, instead, group references at the end of the book listed by page number. Do read the book and give it to your children. Recommend it to your friends. This is history writing at its very best (and congrats to for bringing it to us all at the right price!!)
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on 16 November 2013
I found Antony Beevor's Stalingrad to be a gripping, fantastic book, yet the horrors it describes makes this a depressing, uncomfortable read. The vast majority of the book deals with the actual Battle of Stalingrad, but Beevor sets the battle in its historical and strategic context by briefly outlining Germany's invasion of the USSR under Operation Barbarossa, and the Wehrmacht's push to the Caucasus and Volga river.

The book reveals the full horrors of the battle, made all the worse as it fought between the armies of two of history's most reprehensible and evil regimes. This was not just a battle, but a political, ideological struggle, where no quarter is given or expected.

I was repeatedly struck by the callousness and brutality of both sides, towards their enemies, the civilians and even their own soldiers. One could not help but feel for the German soldiers, once encircled and trapped in the Kessel, being subjected to starvation, lice, frostbite and cruelty. The Soviet soldiers too suffered. I was also struck by the leadership of Hitler and Stalin. In Hitler's case this should be a lack of leadership. Hundreds of miles away Hitler tried to dictate the battle, even down to the last battalion, but could not, or would not, understand the military necessity to retreat or the logistical difficulties the Sixth Army faced. his constant meddling was both incompetent and fatal to the battle's outcome. Stalin, although just as much a dictator as Hitler, at least had the sense to listen to his generals and give them a relatively (when compared to Hitler) free rein.

Other reviewers have done a superb job in reviewing this book. I can merely agree with their views and recommend this book as a must read.
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on 19 November 2008
I daresay that there are quite a few people out there who have a layman's interest in the events of the Second World War but may be daunted by this book's 430-odd page length (nearly 500 including appendices and notes).

If this block of paper had been dumped in front of me as part of the necessary reading for a history exam I might've preferred to take up smoking instead.

But I'd have had little to fear. It's not dull or boring. It's not written in a slow or difficult manner. It's a thoroughly informative and exciting read that you'll constantly wish to get back to.

A good deal of the information in this book comes from personal letters and diaries written by those deeply involved in the colossal war-within-a-war that was the battle for Stalingrad. It justly exposes not only the horrific mistakes made by the leaders of both sides but the truly heartbreaking experiences of the hundreds of thousands of men and women involved.

The sheer level of atrocity goes beyond what the reader can possibly comprehend. The suffering far exceeds what was described in the levels of purgatory in Dante's 'The Divine Comedy'. This really was Hell on Earth.

But this is also a book that reveals the extraordinary resilience and unbelievable bravery that exists in mankind. There really is something of the superhuman revealed in these pages. And not only on the part of the mighty Russian fighters but of the Germans forces too.

Within these pages the reader is frequently reminded that the people involved are simply humans like the rest of us. Not all the Wermacht were cold blooded Nazi killers, not all the Red Army were ruthless bloodthirsty Stalinists. They were just people driven or forced to achieve an aim.

If only this book could be a final lesson to all of us to desist from the kind of insanity it describes.
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