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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monumental , sound and sobering
Anthony Beevor's book provides an excellent and often compassionate account of this most appalling human tragedy. It is written in his well established authorative yet readable style. I am not an historian as such but as far as I can tell, from other books I have consulted, Beevor has successfully brought together the account of this event and clearly demonstrates why...
Published on 26 Sept. 2012 by Ariadne

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Text Great, But!
I'm no expert. I assume the facts are accurate, and it is well told. Also has a lot of personal first-hand experiences and quotations. BUT the maps are TERRIBLE and far too few, most even lack a legend. To wit - even the end-paper map is almost totally useless! I'm surprised Mr. Beevor could allow this to occur. In contrast, his Stalingrad has better, more informative...
Published 14 months ago by Robert Thomas Macrery


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Second World War, 3 Oct. 2012
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This is an exceptional book. I lived through the Second World War and remember much of what we experienced and what was on the BBC news but this book fills in the gaps in a very complete and readable way. Antony Beevor has a gift for taking dry facts and bringing them to life with anecdotes and quotations which are relevant, accurate and helpful. It's a big book - 783 pages - but the story unfolds in such a vivid way that I just kept on reading. For anyone interested in this period of history, this is a must.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beevor - Second World War, 1 Oct. 2012
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Antony Beevor is always a good read and this is no exception. He manages to make a vast and often incoherent series of events into a logical narrative. He also debunks many of the Second World War myths exposing heroic episodes as rather sordid and often badly managed enterprises. He almost makes Roosevelt into the villain of the piece, after Hitler, and is particularly harsh on Montgomery and Harris (and not too favourable to Churchill either). The main criticism is that there is little, and sometimes inaccurate, comment on the war at sea in both Atlantic and Pacific theatres despite his admission that sea power was crucial to the Allied victory. Nor is there much on the 'home fronts', either in Britain or Germany, despite much recent publication - this is definitely a military account.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History For Humans, 6 Oct. 2012
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Beevor as usual presents an account of the most devastating War in History with a mixture of accuracy, engaging narrative and splashes of black humour in those dark events which compels one to read on , he links the Geo-Politics , overall Strategies and grass roots humanities/ inhumanities of the peoples involved and illuminates those times. If we can take lessons I hope we shall .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One to read if you have any degree of interest in WWII, 4 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: The Second World War (Hardcover)
This is probably the best book I have read as a history of the Second World War. It is not written in a high brow overly accademic fashion which results in it being all the more readable. Having read many books on this period of history, I thought I had a reasonably sound knowledge base. This book made me realise just how much I did not know!

It has a remarkable knack of both portraying the time in a very individual personal way as well as an overview with many revelations regarding the horror of war. This is most definately one to read if you are interested in the period and the one to read if you only every intend to read one book on World War II. Don't be put off by the size of the book, it is not a heavy read by war standards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beevor's fine and literate single-volume history is an admirable synthesis, 7 Aug. 2014
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The Guardian (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Second World War (Hardcover)
To attempt to write a one-volume history of the greatest conflict in the history of mankind is a daunting task: you're bound to offend or displease someone by giving short shrift to their particular pet subject/campaign/national army/theatre of war, or omit some detail considered important by a minority of readers.

Antony Beevor's `The Second World War' stands out in a crowded field of single-volume WW2 histories by being extremely well-written in a style as succinct as it is intelligent and literate, organised into 50 roughly chronological chapters of unequal length and running to 783 pages excluding the index and notes. Beevor offers us a deep understanding of the interdependence of different parts of the global conflict, how for example the long and bitterly-fought war in China between the Nationalists and the invading Japanese armies impacted decisions by Stalin and the STAVKA how and when to deploy formations in the war against the Wehrmacht; at the same time 700,000 Japanese troops tied down in the Chinese conflict were unavailable for the Pacific theatre. Focus is brought to oft-neglected episodes like the short Soviet-Japanese war in the Nomonhan region of Mongolia in 1939 (which Beevor claims with justification marked the actual start of WW2), the brief but savage civil war in Greece in 1944-45 after the German forces departed, and the unbelievable scale of bloodletting in the battles for Budapest and Konigsburg where the death toll ran to hundreds of thousands.

A thorough analysis is presented as to how Churchill (with his obsessive desire for a post-war free & democratic Poland), the genial-but-deepdown-scheming Roosevelt and others in the British and US governments were repeatedly outwitted and out-maneuvered by the cold, calculating and deeply paranoid Stalin, the real victor of WW2. Few of the best-known military leaders - Rommel, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Montgomery, `Vinegar Joe' Stilwell, `Bomber' Harris of the RAF, De Gaulle, Mark Clark - come out of Beevor's narrative covered in glory, the character flaws of all these and many others laid bare.

A notable shortcoming is the poor quality of the maps, too small and lacking detail to be of any use to the reader unfamiliar with the campaigns and who might not have better reference material available. The choice and sheer range of subjects of the monochrome photos however is excellent, and does justice to the global nature of the war.

Beevor's book does not spare the reader details of the ubiquitous horror which characterised the conflict: eyewitness accounts of naked and shorn prisoners, half-starved, being driven by sadistic guards with packs of savage dogs into the gas chambers at Treblinka (where 800,000 were murdered in 13 months, more than at Auschwitz in the same period); the mass gang rapes, murder and pillage perpetrated by Russian soldiers in East Prussia in January-February 1945; the details of how tens of thousands of German & Japanese civilians were incinerated in firebomb attacks by allied air forces; the murderous persecutions of the NKVD against almost everyone including their East European allies and Russian prisoners `liberated' from German POW camps unjustly assumed to have been `collaborators' because they had obeyed their Red Army officers' orders to surrender. One particular detail to which Beevor devotes a couple of pages is the widespread practice of cannibalism among Japanese forces in Asia, who (evidence and testimony from survivors proves) regularly killed and ate Chinese, Burmese and Papuan civilians, POWs and even their own comrades. All this hatred and brutality does not sit well with our 21st century sensibilities but it happened, nevertheless, and just about within living memory.

Overall, Beevor has done a fine job with this massive subject. You will find his book particularly informative if you do not have extensive knowledge of the period but are looking for more than just a general overview; perhaps less so the history buff already steeped in the detail of the military campaigns and political background to the conflict. The writing style is crisp and engaging, the narrative gripping, the editing good (literally two or three minor grammatical errors in 800 pages). Regardless of your present knowledge and reading history about this conflict, this book is highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feelings of Utter Amazement & Despair, 31 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Second World War (Paperback)
The book is extraordinary; full of detail, often relating tales of incompetence, delusion and arrogance not only among the commanders but on occasion the leaders too including Churchill, Hitler, Roosevelt and especially Stalin and of course Mussolini. It is all very harrowing particularly the descriptions of the way the various civilians were treated by, especially, the Germans, Russians and Japanese. The Russian front and the war in the East were just dire; beyond comprehension.

History is the story of 'ands' and not 'ifs' but you cannot help but wonder. For example: Montgomery's assumption of the campaign in North Africa. Churchill was against his appointment as he wanted Lt. Gen 'Strafer' Gott and would have had his way over Field Marshall Alexander, who campaigned for Monty. However "the situation was resolved when Gott was killed, after his plane was shot down by a Messershmidt." And had that Messershmidt not been passing? There are also examples of extraordinary self interest and one in particular. German and Italian forces were based in Sicily. Axis forces were wanting to bomb towns on the Libyan coast but Italian generals were lobbying against such action. Why? Because they owned holiday homes in those towns!! With the arrival of Rommel and his colleague who was one of Hitler's closest adjutants such pleadings did not prevail for that much longer! Also staggering was the amount of rivalry, often petty, commonly competitive and sometimes verging on the outright distrust between Britain and the US.

The numbers involved are staggering. Talks of just one army campaign of 1.5 million people is common place and so too an air invasion involving 800 aircraft. Beevor is no fan of Bomber Harris by the way and not a great fan of Monty either. Stalin for all his crimes certainly came our of the war having totally out foxed both Churchill and Roosevelt; who both felt they had won the charm war but had in fact been duped themselves by Stalin's own machinations. Interesting how R was very acquiescent to S to ensure his own dreams of setting up the UN were supported and how C unsuccessfully tried time and again to ensure Poland was independent and free of the USSR and also to an extent Czechoslovakia too. Unsuccessful as Stalin was insistent on having a buffer zone from Germany and Western Europe. Realpolitik!!! C was successful with Greece however but from AB's account S did not seem too interested in Greece.

If you can take the truly harrowing then the book is worth reading. It is close to 800 pages but AB writes in a very pacy and readable way. For someone like me whose knowledge of WWII is segmented (largely thanks to films) by certain events and images such as Dunkirk, Normandy, Stalingrad, Burma's railway and Hiroshima the book ties everything together and provides a coherent and thorough chronology. Well worth a read. Just wished there were more and better maps but then that's me - and the reason for no fifth star!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Military Historian of WW2 in English, 2 Jan. 2013
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This fantastic single volume of WW2 trounces all competitors with its scope, insight and erudition. Unusually,Beevor starts the war in China a few years before Hitler's aggression in Europe with a fateful battle between the Russians and Japanese. This battle had huge consequences for the futue conduct of the war - it convinced the Japanese not to fight the Russians but the Americans, and the rest is history. It enabled the Russians to concentrate on defeating the Germans from 1941, and ensured Allied victory. The value add of Beevor is that he knows more than military history, and puts things into context in a way that surprises and delights the reader.

This new volume - added to his D day, War in Spain, Battle of Berlin, Stalingrad, etc, puts Beevor in the front rank of WW2 military historians writing in English - appealing to the academic and layman alike. His grasp of the detail is simply unmatched. He spares no one -the most admirable warrior nations are reduced to pulp by his factual dissection of their inadequacies. Not even the powerful Germans are spared; the hall of shame stars the pathetic Italians and French, the barbaric Japanese, supported by the inept British and sometimes, the naive Americans. The Russians are the heroes of the story - even lead by donkeys, they inevitably triumph. Of course, that meant no freedom for Eastern Europe for nearly half a century. But one can only wonder at their enormous courage, sacrifice and sheer tenacity in overcoming the Germans almost by themselves. Any proper history of the war makes the boastful British look sick, and Beevor has the single mindedness to tell it like it is.

Knockout.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All of the World at War, 9 July 2012
By 
Manly Reading (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Second World War (Hardcover)
This is the third big study of WWII I have read in the last three years, and the ending is the same each time. That's the problem with non-fiction. On the other hand, you do learn new ways of looking at things you already know, so there is that. I can't really split this from Max Hastings All Hell Let Loose or Andrew Roberts Storm of War/Masters and Commanders. All books are just superb works that will stand the test of time. This has the best narative flow, perhaps, but there is a little more analysis in the other works, and certainly this is less unhappy than Hastings brutal retelling of the events of 1939-1945.

What Beevor does better than those other two is explore the war in China: perhaps he even does this better than Hastings "Retribution" about the Pacific War. But, apart from the Battle of Khalkin Gol in early 1939, when the Soviets soundly defeated the Japanese, for the most part the rest of the War affected China, while events in China did not really affect the wider war. You could make the case that Andrew Roberts basically one-page summary as "the Chinese tied up 1 million Japanese Army soldiers" is a fair summary of what Beevor covers at length. Of course, that means you ignore a lot of suffering by the Chinese peasantry, which you cannot overlook in today's world, which is still largely shaped by WWII.

In short, every theatre of war is covered in some degree of detail, together with how they all interrelated, and also with the machinations of Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler (and to a degree, de Gaulle). If there is anything in particular I took away from this, its that Roosevelt was a bit of a prick: he appears completely amoral, apart from the big issue of war against Hitler and Tojo. As a sideline to WWII, Roosevelt was focused on dismantling the British Empire, all the while ignoring the rise of the Soviet empire to an extent that must have been either deliberate or negligent. But still, in the great scheme of WWII, the British lost less than most - certainly less than the the Jews, the Poles, or the Balts, or other nations of central Europe.

I guess I have to say, read all of Roberts, Hastings and Beevor. All are great works and complement the other. Beevor's books on the fall of Berlin, the battle of Stalingrad, and D-Day are also excellent. If you have an interest in military history, this is a must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to the subject imaginable, 12 Feb. 2013
By 
D. Schotman "D.E.B. Schotman" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Second World War (Hardcover)
Actually this was the first time I read a book on WW2 in entirety. I read several book on specific episodes or on why it broke out, but not in such a good overview like this. This book (I thinks) takes a rather unorthodox approach by letting WW2 break out, not in Europe (as it traditionally assumed when Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1st) but in Asia, when Japan begins to expand in China. Throughout the book Beever is switching focus so that you get a really good idea about what was going on and when. It for example never occurred to me that while the English & Americans invaded Europe from the south, after the war in North Africa, the Russians were defending Stalingrad. I always thought the focus was on Europe and that they completed Japan after that, but here you can see how these campaigns were done at the same time. This all gives a nice rounded off overview, where you can see that WW2 was not a following of sequences, but rather that many things happened at the same time. A big read with 880 pages, but Beevor's style is easy to read. My only comment would be that I would have liked to have read more on specific subjects, but then it was a overview, so for this, we can always consult others, or other works of Beevor. I will certainly check out his Stalingrad & Berlin: the Downfall now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War and War, 10 Aug. 2012
By 
W. Rodick (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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What struck me hard in reading Beevor's in-depth book of history is the treatment of civilians on all sides as mere ants to be squashed. Because they could be squashed.

I think of my mum and dad as children during the second world war. Watching in awe as the over paid, over sexed heroes of the American army marched down Queens Drive. "Any gum chum?" the scrawny kids would pester. With admiration.

Beevor also picks out individual civilian anecdotes. The battles are told as they happened. From the east or west, this many of that type of tank, a general's army goes one way, another does something else. A compelling read. A book of well earned authority. I felt no bias in the facts being relayed to me. Only the unrelenting horror of a war that was made-up as it was going along. Each side trying to out-smart and out kill each other. Men who knew no better. Women left.

I am resisting pointing out anything in particular. The Germans could have won the war. You can pick out for yourself decisive moments, decisions or indecisions. It is clear, however, that Nazi ideology infected the whole German population. Call it momentum if you like, but the will to support their despotic leader had no bounds. No conscience. No fear.
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The Second World War
The Second World War by Antony Beevor (Paperback - 26 Sept. 2013)
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