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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and concise!, 3 Oct 2010
This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
This is an excellent little book on what really took place those last few days when it seemed like there was an option whether to go to war with Hitler Germany or not. It's amazing how much Overy could press in to those few pages. All the important information is there, the conversations, what document was sent where and who was present at what meeting. Since the book is so intense and full of names and events, you can not really put the book down since then you will forget who is who and what's happened.
The book is only 124 pages long with the rest of the pages being notes and index. I did not pay attention to this fact so I was a little bit surprised and a little bit sceptic before starting reading the book. But is shows that one doesn't have to waste words.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little jewel of a book, 3 July 2011
By 
Hereward the Wakeful (Northern Euro Region, Former UK) - See all my reviews
It is surprising how much there is to learn in such a short book about the political maze that lies behind the decision to go to war in 1939. I don't entirely agree with the reviewer who suggests that the number of protagonists in this string of events make the story complicated and difficult to digest. Though I do agree with those who praise this work as a fresh insight into a story which other history books have oversimplified into a two-dimenional myth of good versus evil. I came out of it seeing Hitler as a flawed strategist whose failed bluff already sowed the seed of his final defeat, and the Allies as more interested in saving themselves rather than Polish liberty - a consideration which came much lower on the list of priorities than I hitherto imagined. It is no longer possible to see the Second World War in terms of the Allied cavalry charging over the hill to defend Poland, as indeed the endgame and the outcome of the war attests. The highlight of the book has to be the description of Hitler's reaction on hearing that Britain had declared war against him. It gives the devil a human face. This is an excellent little book. Read it.
Footnote: the Product Description claims that Poland was created in 1919. Strictly speaking this is untrue. Poland, as a nation state, came into being in 966 and flourished until the end of the 18th century when European politics saw it partitioned by three empires: Russian, Prussian and Austro-Hungarian. 1919 was not the year of a newly-created Poland but a newly-liberated Poland.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must, 19 April 2011
This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
This is a remarkable account of the days previous to the beggining of the war. Overy has a great sense to tell how were the days in an almost noveled way. Goes deep in one of the causes of the war which is the role of Poland and the decision of Britain to protect it at any cost. He shows his convincement that Hitler did not wanted to unleash a World War but a localized conflict which allowed him to present himself as a strong man in front of his generals. It is also interesting how all the parts played roles in a sort of underground diplomacy trying to solve the polish question and checking if the rival was really ready for war. Very useful for those wanting to go deeper in the causes that eventually lead to war.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An hour by hour account of the outbreak of WWII, 3 Feb 2011
This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
This short volume gives a fascinating hour by hour insight into the fortnight leading up to the outbreak of the world war in 1939. There was nothing inevitable about war breaking out when it did. Hitler was convinced that Britain and France would back down, whilst Britain and France persuaded themselves that Hitler would back down in the face of their insistence on supporting Poland. Essentially around six people or so were responsible for the decisions that led to war, and the book outlines the mental and physical pressures on each of them. The author concludes that Britain and France went to war not to save Poland from a cruel occupation (an unrealistic proposition), but to save themselves from the dangers of a disintegrating international order.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a good idea, 12 Dec 2011
This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
This review is based of the French translation of "countdown to war".
In a very short book the author comes back to the very last days of August 1939 preceding the German invasion of Poland. This is quite a good idea as this short period of time has often been dissolved in the whole history of WW2 or even of the nazi era.
What I picked out of this book is that this "chapter" of the war was pure bluffing by Hitler. He did not believe in any French/British reaction in favour of Poland. However after years of appeasement the allies went to war amid a mix of reluctance and resolution as if past renouncement would justify it. Thus this was not very rational: why help the Pole and not Czech ? why stand with the Pole and not move a finger to help them?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To the point: more history should be like this, 7 Mar 2011
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
Overy's slim volume on the Battle of Britain was a sharp disection of the myths surrounding that aspect of WW2. Here, he's done an equally concise and forsenic job on the days leading up to the outbreak of the war; and mighty impressive it is too.

Overy refreshingly bucks the trend of history books needing to be over-long and packed with incidental details. Here, he assumes enough intellgence on the part of the reader for them to fill in some of the context, and so concentrates instead on the analysis that was at the heart of the chaos and uncertainty that eventually led to the outbreak of the war.

There are some nice touches, with a few bits of detail here and there to really bring the diplomacy to life, and the run up to Chamberlain's announcement of war being declared on 3 September is genuinely exciting and atmospheric. Perhaps most impressive of all is the balance with which Overy tackles the subject. Chamberlain has received a raw deal in most appraisals of his handling of the situation leading up to war; but as Overy makes clear, hindsight is a wonderful gift to have afterwards - but at the time he was genuninely trying to achieve the best possible outcome for Britain and Europe.

A revealing insight into the mayhem and chaos that sits not too far behind the scene at diplomatic jockeying like this - and an exemplary example of the shorter history book that punches way above its weight. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and precise, 18 Jun 2012
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This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
A superb and accessible recount of the days leading up to WWII. Well worth reading alongside AJP Taylor's seminal, The Origins of the Second World War. A must for any serious historian whilst simultaneously being an entertaining and interesting read for the amateur.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 17 Aug 2014
By 
TJ MCGINN - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Paperback)
Very interesting angle on stuff I thought I knew about
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A standard work on air warfare, 13 Feb 2013
By 
dmsnape@netlineuk.net (Bedfordshire; England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Air War, 1939-45 (Paperback)
Richard Overy is an acknowledge expert on Air Power. This book details the contribution of aircraft to the Second World War. It is densely written and contains brilliant analyses. A must for the real student of air warfare in WWII.
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1939: Countdown to War
1939: Countdown to War by Richard Overy (Paperback - 29 April 2010)
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