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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does more than it says on the tin - a short, gripping, insightful history of WW2
This is a brief, gripping account of the second world war in under 300 pages. Stone is a good writer: I stormed through the book in just a few days and enjoyed it hugely. As a Brit with basic knowledge of the war, having picked up details over the years about various events - say the Blitz, Dunkirk, D-Day, Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad - it was satisfying to read a clear...
Published on 8 Feb. 2013 by William Fross

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping Statements
It is not practicable to achieve definitive coverage of World War II in 200 pages, yet Norman Stone's book is a good attempt, particularly for its `introduction' setting the scene after the Great War with commentary on the build up to 1939, and for its `Aftermath' summarising what followed up to reunification of West and East Germany. The main narrative is of a...
Published on 10 Jan. 2013 by D. Elliott


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good companion, 3 Mar. 2013
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If I hadn't read 'All hell let loose' by Max Hastings (which I highly recommend All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945) I might not have understood where this book might fit in. It offers a very succinct history of the Second World War which only just manages to stop short of being dry. However, when immersing myself in the human story provided by Hastings, the tapestry of the war was so vast that it became difficult at times to absorb the wider chronology.

In this sense, and without denigrating Stone's writing, his book serves as a primer to be read alongside more detailed accounts - the many individual stories of the war. It is not so much that it is a general account because there is a lot of fact there. In addition, Stone is surprisingly good at maintaining a thread through disparate episodes of the story.

However, it is described as a commentary and has that slightly distant feel of an individual reporting on events dispassionately. This is why I describe it as a 'good companion' - by itself I would have found it too cold an account but that very aloof quality makes it an ideal 'guide' to World War II when visiting the subject through the accounts of others.

In another sense, by its relative dispassion (I puzzled at the Literary Review's description of it being 'opinionated' freshness) it acts as a moderator to works of other writers that may have an agenda.

I have the entire set of Churchill's 'The Second World War' and many of the other definitive texts on the subject but in my opinion Max Hasting's single volume history accompanied by this text represent the first stepping stone for anyone who wants to understand the reality of that conflict or a debrief for those who have read very widely but would like to bring everything into focus.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief & punchy, Stone's summary of WW2 is a fine achievement but not recommended as a `beginners' guide', 20 Jan. 2013
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Historian Norman Stone has set himself the challenging task of writing a condensed history of WW2 in just over 200 pages, and the result is an impressive if imperfect summary of that epic conflict covering all the essentials but necessarily skimping on the details.

In nine densely written chapters, the author attempts a roughly chronological narrative of the global conflict emphasising the far-reaching consequences of political and strategic decisions, i.e. Hitler's decision to implement Barbarossa specifically in June 1941, and the failure of the German High Command to make adequate logistical provision for a long war should strong Soviet resistance be encountered. The brevity of the narrative inevitably results in some jumping around and discussion of divergent campaigns as more closely connected than in reality they were, like `Pearl Harbor and North Africa' which are treated together as a consequence of decisions made following US entry into the war.

Where the author succeeds brilliantly is in his succinct and intelligent summary of the causes of the war, the end-of-the-age-of-empires zeitgeist underpinning the popular mood and a retrospective overview, i.e.

"Poland was the martyr of the Second World War, as Great Britain was the hero, and the United States the victor" (p28)

Appropriate importance is given over to the epic conflict between Germany & the USSR, with emphasis on oft-neglected factors such as the importance of partisan activity, and the serious impact on logistical supply to the German forces in Russia of the failure to convert the Russian railway gauge to take German trains. Stone further reminds us that it was specifically the decision by Mussolini to enter the war and build his North African Empire that led to (what the author considers to be) ultimately wasteful diversion of allied resources into the Mediterranean campaign. He also remains un-persuaded by Albert Speer's claim that the allied strategic bombing campaign can be retrospectively justified because it drained off huge German military resources from the Eastern Front, and does not share the popular revisionist perspective of recent years that the British contribution to victory over the Axis powers was in any way peripheral, but argues it was of central & essential importance.

Where the book falls seriously short is in its detailed discussion of campaigns, especially in Russia, with references to specific geography & locations but with no maps to assist the reader to understand what was going on. A familiarity with distance and geography (and the names and locations of for example scores of Russian towns and cities) is assumed by the author, which most non-Russian readers frankly will not have. Some good maps to help explain these passages would have been of invaluable assistance.

Also it needs to be said that the book will probably not work well as an introduction to the subject for the young and uninformed reader, as the narrative assumes in places a fairly deep level of historical knowledge of the period. It's more an academic essay, an opinionated argument for the consideration of the serious student of the subject, than a beginners' guide. Stone's writing style however is punchy, humorous, literate & succinct, qualities which make for an absorbing and entertaining read and which definitely raise this book above the mundane.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fits the bill completely, 13 Jan. 2013
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Mrs "Love all sorts of books, Eng Lit degree,... (Potterton, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This is a SHORT history so I am reviewing this book from that perspective.

This is a rapid journey through almost a century of one of the most densely packed period's of history. The book covers admirably the interwar years, building up to the moment when the inevitable second world war began, albeit limited initially to europe, just as in the first world war. Stone does not just recite narrative facts and timelines, he offers opinion and perspective on the stance of the protagonists (nations and individuals) and is unflinching in putting these down. That he manages to cover the whole perspective of this conflict which wrecked much of the world and created change which still impact on the modern world is a major accomplishment. This should whet the appetite to explore aspects in more detail but does offer a straightforward albeit densely packed description of those life changing events.

This is a book I will want my daughter to read, because she wants to know more about this period, and I think it ought to be on more bookshelves. I will be looking out for his WWI book. It provides an excellent overview of this crowded time in our recent past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a short history- does what it says!, 9 Feb. 2013
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the book is concise but very informative and not at all full of superficial information- plenty of in-depth stuff. It was easily accessible also for a GCSE student
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great primer for anyone new to the subject, 24 April 2013
By 
FLB (England) - See all my reviews
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Before I start this review, I should say that my husband actually read the book as this is firmly 'his sort of thing' (see some of my other reviews for details of 'his thing')

As soon as it arrived he settled himself down with a cup of tea and the book which I had already noticed was a short one, just like the title says. I later checked its 272 pages. I wasn't going to get much peace with this one. Sure enough after only a couple of hours the book went down and I waited for the pronouncement.

Apparently, this book covers the period between the wars very well, discussing areas that even my husband was unaware of. It then covers the Phoney war, German expansionism, Ribbentrop.....(at this point my eyes glazed over and I began to think about what colour to paint the lounge ceiling) .....battle of the bulge and the endgame. He was very enthused and this book has joined his collection of 'quick facts' books. The one he uses to settle arguments or when watching millionaire.

Apparently this is a good book and would suit someone with a good knowledge of the subject or the complete novice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, pacy Account, 14 May 2013
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A. I. Mackenzie "alimack" (Glasgow, Scotland.) - See all my reviews
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I last studied the 2nd World war at school and aside from the odd film haven't really paid much attention since.
This book was a bit of a revelation, a lot of it was new to me but even better it read well, it's extremely rare to find history done in such a great way.
The last history book I enjoyed this much was on the Dynasty: The Stuarts, 1560-1807.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible amount within a small compass, 31 Dec. 2012
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IAN CAMERON-MOWAT (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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How do you fit an account of the Second World War into 200-odd pages? This author does it with great skill, but of necessity he packs a lot in and can sound verging on the journalistic. He includes the run-up from WW1 , the postwar consequences and a discussion of the literature as well. Not so much "above the fray" as "view from a satellite on fast-forward".

It is great that balanced histories are now coming out. It is now well known that the vast majority of the German fighting was against the Russians, but less well-known that two-thirds of the Japanese army was fighting huge battles in China, for example. In the UK particularly, we benefit from the expiry of the postwar hagiographic approach.

The strength of this book is that you get a real idea of what was going on and a framework to understand "the big picture".

The weakness is that, although everything is right and covered correctly, it starts to read like a paperback history of the Sixteenth Century-you can't identify and keep wondering why the barons and principalities didn't just get on with each other and trade peacefully. The author agrees, pointing out out that, if everyone had behaved rationally, the war could have been avoided. Of course, that is slightly the point.

Highly recommended for an overall history, but for a bit more entertainment, Max Hastings and Anthony Beevor have written on the subject, both managing the difficult task of including human stories within a larger history.

The very eminent Professor Overy wrote a scathing review in the Daily Telegraph focussing on two points-superficality and inaccuracy.
Yes, he is right that this is not cutting edge research, but imho, it is meant to be a primer for a new generation and succeeds well at this. For example, I recently visited Volgograd and some of the locals were upset that Googling "Stalingrad" leads to a site for "Russian Brides".
More significantly, there are a few factual errors. For example, there is, apparently, no evidence of Hitler actually ordering Jews to be killed.(No I don't have a Swastika on my bedroom wall).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A condensed assessment, 6 Feb. 2013
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R. W. Stevens "Sue Stevens" (Cheshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This isn't a bad read and should be of great value to those seeking a less detailed story of the events. It doesn't contain a great deal of information that hasn't already been covered, but perhaps provides a better perspective of the war from a British point of view than many previous books.The main strength of the work is that it provides a thorough overview of most aspects of the war in a concise and readable manner. It may spur some readers into subsequently seeking more detail.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good short history., 19 Aug. 2013
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A very good short history giving all the essential details without confusing you with too much information.I enjoyed it without having to read a lot of information about every battle and numbers of casualties etc.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars can't fault, 27 Jan. 2013
By 
Michael Jenkins (glasgow United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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A brilliant little book but big on it's subject matter. If you want a book that goes into great detail about large battles and the politics of the second world war, then this isn't the book for you. In saying that it is very concise and detailed, and it being Norman Stone, who in my view can't be faulted, especially after the similiar book about the Great war.

Buy this book it is re-readable.
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World War Two: A Short History
World War Two: A Short History by Norman Stone (Paperback - 6 Feb. 2014)
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