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on 27 January 2010
Sometimes history can be as gripping as the best novels. This account brings to life the deliberations in the British War Cabinet in five crucial days when France was on the brink of defeat by Hitler, when it seemed that the British Army fighting in France was about to be killed and captured, and all assumed that invasion of Britain would shortly follow. In these days the course was set to fight on alone and be a beacon of freedom in a darkening world, rather than to seek the mediation of Italy for a deal with Hitler that might have preserved nominal British independence but would have acknowledged German pre-eminence over continental Europe and fatally weakened the British resolve to fight for the liberation of Europe. In these days, and through this debate, Hitler came closer than he ever did at any other time to achieving his war aims. The life of this story is in the detailed recreation of the discussions and the atmosphere of the time and this Lukacs succeeds in doing with passion and precise argument. You may know the outcome but the book is nevertheless unputdownable.
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on 6 January 2014
It has taken me 66 years to become aware of the extent of the debt that I owe to Churchill. This truly great leader, under the most unimaginable pressure, was not only the saviour of our nation but of the whole of Europe. And if you believe this to be a gross overstatement then remember this - during 1940 the heads of almost every country in Europe were taking refuge in England whilst Hitler was driving all before him. With no help forthcoming from Roosevelt the United Kingdom were the only country standing between Hitler and total domination of Europe. And the man to thank for that, the only man to thank for that, was Winston Churchill. He would ultimately be supported by the magnificent spirit and resilience of the British people, never more evident than when they have their backs to the wall and when all appears lost 'there was a white glow that spread from one end of the nation to the other'. How different our lives would have been had Churchill bowed to the purveyors of appeasement. A superbly written book and one that everyone should read.
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on 12 May 2011
This is a very thorough book by an academic, written primarily for a knowledgeable audience. That said, as someone who hasn't read very much about world war II, I was gripped. I didn't really need the depth or the number of footnotes, and perhaps I needed more background to some of the players, but Lukacs does a good job at conveying the gravity of the situation and how Churchill's single minded determination and instinctive distrust of Hitler really did save our necks. Churchill was in a delicate position. The slightest weakness on his part and civilisation as we know it would have been lost. I am grateful to have had that set out so powerfully.
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on 18 March 2008
The decision by the British War Cabinet as France was falling in May 1940 to fight on and not enter into negotiations with Hitler, had a profound effect on the outcome of the Second World War and subsequent history. The decision to fight on was not universally held within Cabinet and this book recalls circumstances and the pressures that played a part in the Cabinet's deliberations. This book will not disappoint and is a must read for any one with an interest in war history. The underlying facts deserve to be better known. Lukas has done history a fine service with this book. Highly recommended.
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HALL OF FAMEon 16 December 2002
"But in May 1940 Churchill was the one who did not loose it" This is the theme of a compact, extraordinary 5 days that decided the outcome of WWII. This is certainly not the only event that brought the allies victory; however Mr. Lukacs demonstrates that while England was never in a position to win the war alone, she was in a position to loose it, and Churchill was the individual who saw that it was not lost.
I don't believe he overstates Churchill's role in the slightest. Had the War gone the other way Churchill certainly would have been the focus of all blame. Churchill was flawed, but during the decade of 1930, in what is often referred to as, "His Wilderness Years", the same men who would later owe their existence, and that of their Country's continuance to him, rejected him out of hand.
When he finally became Prime Minister it was when many of the disasters had begun or been completed. Churchill was given the mess that he inherited from Chamberlain and others; Alsace Lorraine gone, Austria gone, Czechoslovakia given away with Chamberlain's active participation punctuated by the "Peace In Our Time" debacle. Further, France was quickly falling apart, as were the Low Countries, Dunkirk loomed, and what is worse, Churchill had to cope with members of his own Cabinet that wanted to negotiate with Hitler as he was storming across Europe.
Churchill managed to bring those in government and the public to his side, and the rest as they say, is History. Mr. Lukacs provides great additional information, footnotes that are as informative as the body of the text, and an even handed description of those players involved including Churchill. Mr. Lukacs offers a brilliant documentation of History, which is also readable, and he plausibly demonstrates that what we may have thought of as an event that actually did take years to finish, may actually have been decided in 5 days.
Buy the book you will not be disappointed.
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on 22 October 2001
Once again, Lukacs captures the mood of a pivotal moment in World War II history. A must for all Churchill fans, this book accurately potrays the behind-the-scenes jostling that occured during those turbulent days.
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on 5 May 2011
Totally authoritative history, very well-written and as exciting as any thriller. What more could you ask for? To be seasonal - this makes a brilliant "holiday read" as I have just proved.
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on 13 September 2015
I bought this and Lukacs' other book on this period, The duel. They are both excellent books on what could be argued as the most critical period in British history when the country faced the prospect of losing a war with the most evil regime in history. One may argue that the choice made by the wartime coalition war cabinet saved the world from diasaster. Lukacs has strong views, which he expresses fully but I was left with the impression that this man has thoroughly researched his subject.
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on 23 August 2012
The author tells us that in these five days WW2 could have been lost save for the determination of Churchill. Our army was in retreat and on the point of destruction at Dunkirk. The country was blissfully unaware of how bad things were. It is fascinating how the author reports government surveys of daily morale. Never again will the populace be so ignorant on an imminent peril. The book asks the whys and what ifs. Why did Hitler halt his army before its work was done? Why did he turn on Russia. What if we had accepted peace terms as Halifax counselled? One is left thanking God that we were led by a man who realised that it would be better to go down fighting than to submit to tyranny. We stood alone save for the help of our Empire. The USA was giving no help with the former bootlegger, Kennedy as its London ambassador. The writings of Churchill and Halifax do not tell us the inside story of those darkest days. This book does. My only criticism is his final comparison of Churchill to Canute seeking to hold back the tide. Canute's action was to show he could not withstand the force of the creator. Churchill did hold back the tide of Hitler. Without Churchill the second half of the 20th century would have been very very dark.
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on 4 December 2015
Lukacs is an interesting historian with a distinctive style. He shines another light on why Churchill decided against negotiating a peace agreement with Germany, although Poland could not be rescued and Britain's own defences were far from secure, especially after the unexpectedly rapid collapse of France. He reveals however that Churchill briefly considered the Hitler-fan Lloyd George as a possible peace leader as an alternative to Oswald Mosley, who was then imprisoned without charge or trial just after stating that his British Union in the event of an enemy landing would be at the disposal of the government in driving in the Nazi invaders from our soil! One would like to see Lukacs, who has also written a good book on the sad outcome of WW2, examine the long forgotten and largely unknown efforts to impede the Allied war effort made by the Communists in Britain, America, France, Belgium and China during the Russo-German Pact. Churchill ruefully remarked after the war that we faced "even worse" perils from the USSR and "perhaps we had killed the wrong pig".
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