on 2 October 1998
I found this easy to read. The book presented many aspects of the time. Some peoples accounts of famous events like Pearl Harbour were fresh and relevant. Don't expect a balanced view of the war nor the truth. What you do get is tales as interesting for what they leave out as put in. The book opens very much in the style of Saving Private Ryan with stories of bullets, bombs and carnage. There are definite themes such as treatment of the American-Japanese community on the home front, the Afro-American troops story, Women and the war and the Atomic bomb and it's impact and effects. The book never concludes anything though there is a narrator prescence here and there in the pages. The analysis of these oral histories is for the reader. I found it showed how tough the human condition is. On the whole most participants in the war felt the A-bomb should have been dropped. Only japanese felt otherwise ! The turn around in foreign policy from Russia as an Allie to enemy No.1 was also quite noticeable. The relatively lenient treatment of the Germans involved in war crimes was also highlighted for me. It's a bit like the freeing of terrorist prisoners here and in Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Peace Agreement. My main hope is that there is a good peace now 'The Troubles' are ended.
on 9 August 1999
This book helped me understand myself and my parents' generation in ways I never considered possible. Reading it was like taking a guided tour through the no-man's-land between idealism and despair. I'm no great history book fan, but I'd definitely recommend this one to readers of every age, nationality, and background. You will not be disappointed.
on 7 February 2014
I have always loved Tony Parker's books in this country, a wonderful range of recorded interviews on topics as varied as crime, army life, the troubles in Northern Ireland and lighthouse keepers. Parker acknowledged his debt to the American Studs Terkel, so this was the first book of his that I have purchased. Terkel's influence on Parker is immediately apparent in the way that he structures and records the interviews conducted.
This is a fascinating take on American life and attitudes to the Second World War, with a very wide range of topics and people included. I felt it was best read in small chunks, taking one interviewee's experience and allowing that to be absorbed. I personally found the sections on attitudes to different races and Japanese internees the most interesting and eye opening, and was startled by the depth of prejudice that existed. The interviews cover life on the American 'Home Front', the war against Japan and American soldiers experiences in Europe. A theme which occurs again and again, even amongst the most professional and battle experienced people is the futility and needlessness of war...a trite comment, but the way in which so many interviewees reach this conclusion is enthralling.
As a result of reading this, two more Studs Terkel books are immediately on order!
I actually got this when I read that it inspired the wonderful World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.
Thought it sounded very interesting hearing about world war 2 from the perspective of "ordinary" people. I've not been disappointed - it's absolutely riveting stuff. A huge range of characters telling what they experienced gives a real feeling of being there.
It covers a fantastic range of stories, from Pearl Harbour, to what it was like being a prisoner of war, as well as the to and fro battling of a front line soldier.
In summary, I can't recommend it enough - one of the definitive books of World War 2.