43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, balanced, highly readable history of the Second World War
An excellent, well balanced history of the Second World War. Roberts writes extremely well and has a gift for expressing himself concisely, which is just as well considering the scale of his subject. It's not a `new' history in the sense of making any fresh revelations, the few paragraphs drawn from previously unpublished material are interesting but mostly not of great...
Published on 27 Sep 2009 by Photo enthusiast
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the 'expected better' camp
I entirely agree with the 'expected better' review. I am a fan of Andrew Roberts and came to this having just read the more impressive 'Masters and Commanders' - notable for a portrayal of Marshall in some detail, not often found in British books. The elementary error with the Manchester is only one of several similar errors and pieces of irrelevant information that...
Published on 27 Dec 2009 by Robert John
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, balanced, highly readable history of the Second World War,
An excellent, well balanced history of the Second World War. Roberts writes extremely well and has a gift for expressing himself concisely, which is just as well considering the scale of his subject. It's not a `new' history in the sense of making any fresh revelations, the few paragraphs drawn from previously unpublished material are interesting but mostly not of great significance, confirming what has been appearing in other recent work. The book is, rather, a welcome new history of the war written in light of the excellent scholarship that has been carried out in recent years. Roberts is much more comfortable with the major issues than with the minor details of how the war was fought, and it is a pity that the publishers did not include a military specialist amongst those checking the drafts. That would have saved Roberts from some pretty basic errors. `Hull-down' does not mean that a tank has its hull pointing down (why would you do that??) it means that the hull is hidden by the terrain or by some other protection while the turret is exposed. The western allies were not so much short of the small landing craft that Roberts describes but of the larger craft - Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) particularly. The Panzerfaust was not "an anti-tank gun very accurate at short range" but an early RPG.
Does this sort of thing matter? Well, yes, in that if you don't know what you're talking about it is better to either write nothing or to check, which in these instances could easily have been done without going further than Wikipedia. The Panzerfaust was so devastating precisely because it was not a `gun' - that's why it could be mass-produced cheaply and in vast quantities to be effectively used by personnel with little training. It wasn't accurate at all - but at the range at which it was effective the target would have loomed so large that accuracy was not needed. Correctness in detail of this kind matters too in that if you know a little bit about the subject and discover obvious errors as you read, you naturally wonder about the reliability of research that has led to conclusions in the wider, more important areas that you perhaps do not know about. You lose some trust in the writer.
I feel mean in citing these small errors in what overall is a fine book, but there were other mistakes indicating a less than full mastery of his subject at this level of detail. It's worth noting that Max Hastings and Antony Beevor don't make mistakes like this. I would therefore argue with The Economist's view that Roberts is 'Britain's finest military historian', but not with the fact that he's damned good.
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A storming read!,
I'm not a great fan of the author's political views, and I approached this with a degree of scepticism, but I was quickly won over by an engaging writing style allied to a keen eye for detail.It is a great 'refresher' book, reminding me of details once read but then forgotten, and is a festschrift in combining information from a number of reputable source authors. Where it scores is in producing the occasional juicy nuggets that are new to me and which have habitually slipped under the radar, such as the response of the French to German occupation, the levels of accomodation with and opposition to the invader, and the paying of rescuing mariners for their services at Dunkirk. He comments wryly on the absence of the great bulk of the Rye fishing fleet during the Dunkirk evacuation, for example. He also shoots down some old canards, such as the supposed attack of Polish lancers against German tanks, as the product of propaganda. While much is familiar (inevitably, given the existing volume of writing on the subject) there is sufficient new material to justify the title of the book as being a new history, and not simply a rehash.As a work it earns its place on the shelf amongst the better accounts of this terrible period.
The book would appeal to more general readers with an interest in the period, as his style is to approach the unravelling tale of the war in the manner of a thriller writer; he returns regularly to the unpredictability of some of the outcomes at given points of the conflict, and raises some interesting 'what if' scenarios that help to keep it fresh. While I would still take issue with his take on certain events and key players in the war, I would have no hesitation in recommending this book. It is a rattling good read!
59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent new history,
As we reach the 70th anniversary of World War Two's beginning, this is a first-class new general history of the conflict. Roberts writes with clarity and enthusiasm: his survey is wide-ranging and thoughtful and full of fascinating insights. The focus is on Axis war strategy, and using fresh archive material, Hitler's blunders are put under the spotlight - particularly his invasion of the Soviet Union, and - once the tide of war had turned - his dogmatic orders to hold every scrap of occupied territory, denying the German Wehrmacht all tactical flexibility. At the heart of the book is the simple yet powerful truth that the hateful race prejudices of the Nazis ultimately undermined their military efforts - but Roberts also pays proper and moving tribute to the courage of those who stood fast against them.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Overview,
This is clearly a book written for a general audience. Unlike many academic historians, Roberts writes with great clarity and economy of prose and his book is therefore a pleasure to read as well as being highly informative for the non-specialist. There's nothing new here, of course - World War II has been picked over since its conclusion and the last great discovery of archive material occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Roberts manages to convey the scale of the horror as well as its very human elements by juxtaposing snippets of trivia alongside the mechanics of grand strategy. He also attempts to provide a balanced view of the war, including many Eastern Front battles that western historians have frequently omitted from their accounts.
War is too often a tale of stupidity, venality and incompetence and there's plenty of that to be found in this book; but there are also moments of great intelligence and - rarely - compassion among the squalor and the terror and the agony.
World War II is now seventy years behind us; most of those who fought in it are dead or in retirement homes. Several generations have grown up without experience of mechanized warfare on home soil and it is necessary that we remind ourselves that our current peace is far from being the historical norm. Hitler and Stalin were monsters, but they achieved total power because more reasonable people stood and did nothing during times of social upheaval. Civilization is a very thin veneer and is easily pulled off, leaving the brutal and the unscrupulous to thrive. War is perhaps an irrevocable part of the human condition and there are no easy answers to be learned from studying history. But it is vital that we remember and try to understand, and Roberts' book is a superb contribution to this task.
Some very minor nits - a few spelling errors should have been caught by the editor, and it is bizarre to use metric units for weight but Imperial units for distance. The text also shows signs of several revisions: in more than twenty places Roberts appears to draw a conclusion, only to draw seemingly the opposite conclusion a couple of paragraphs later. Again, the editor should have caught this prior to publication. These nits aside, this is a book to be read with pleasure and appreciated in many ways.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the 'expected better' camp,
I entirely agree with the 'expected better' review. I am a fan of Andrew Roberts and came to this having just read the more impressive 'Masters and Commanders' - notable for a portrayal of Marshall in some detail, not often found in British books. The elementary error with the Manchester is only one of several similar errors and pieces of irrelevant information that irritate. In a one volume general history, does the P-51H's maximum speed matter? No - not least because it wasn't flown in anger in the war. What are the mysterious "Northrops and Curtiss-Wrights" whose deliveries were diverted to Britain? The closest are Douglas DB-7s (Bostons and Havocs to us) and P-36s, which the RAF never used in the front line anyway (and so were of no significance). And no-one with Stephen Bungay in his biography should be alleging that the Spitfire was less sturdy than the Hurricane. P-39s playing a leading role in defending Moscow? Hardly. If you want the best single-volume history of WW2, then even 35 years on you must still head for Calvocoressi, Wint and Pritchard. This one is in the chasing pack and doesn't distinguish itself from the competition.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected better.,
Trying to write a history of WWII in one volume is a difficult trick to pull off, and it depends largely on how much knowledge you have on the subject on whether you think this book is succesful. What we have here is a series of loosely linked essays covering different aspects of the conflict. Some work, some don't, Andrew Roberts sems to be at his weakest when dealing with aspects of the air war. I had already tripped over a gradient error at Monte Cassino before being presented with the misrepresentation of the Avro Manchester as a four engined bomber (it only had two). By the time I got to the page that had two conflicting casualty totals for V2s in the UK I felt that I was less reading it than marking it. Sloppily written, probably to meet some publishers deadline, we should expect more from frontline historians like Andrew Roberts.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Light,
Andrew Roberts The Storm of War has provided a fresh light on various aspects of World War 11. Most of the story is well known but at least on a few aspects Robert's access to a hitherto private archive provides nuggets of interest. The most interesting is probably the definite confirmation that Hitler's 1940 decision to leave the Luftwaffe to finish off the British at Dunkirk had it's roots in the German failure to understand that a maritime nation would be able to conduct an evacuation by sea. Roberts rightly describes this decision as being one of the many blunders made by Hitler since it preserved the British Army. Roberts points out in reasoned detail that one of the main reasons that the war was won was the total incompetence of the Fuhrer as a Warlord. An incompetence that had it's roots in the absurdity of Nazi racial policy which left the best German atomic scientists on the Allied side. Roberts has succeeded in saying something fresh about what is probably the most written about war in history. No mean achievement since it ended 65 years ago.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Star wars but more exciting,
Andrew's book grips from start to finish. It's full of fresh incites and gems of information. The story unfolds like a novel, yet never falters from the history, with lots of anecdotes from those involved. I particularly liked the way Roberts reveals the paranoia infecting the German high command as generals fought for Hitler's ear; a basic flaw in the Nazi command structure, which in effect lost the war for Germany; despite the undoubted superiority of their forces. Hitler is seen for the egomaniac he was, ignoring advice from his best staff and listening only to those toads who agreed with him.
The war in the pacific is well illuminated, a weakness for me up to now and after this book, I have a much better understanding of events in that theatre
It's hard to put this book down, whether you're a well read military history fan or a real newbie this book will entertain, shock and educate.
A gem of a book.
64 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read,
"The Storm of War" is just superb as a one volume overview of World War Two. Because it is a one volume book, Roberts must necessarily pick and choose what he focuses on. That said, the writing is crisp and clear, and the details and quotes that he does provide are chosen extremely well. I lost track long ago of how many books I have read on World War Two, but I found myself being fascinated by this book and learning a lot from it. The main thing about this book is that it is just so damn fun to read. I haven't had this much fun reading a book since I read Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series almost forty years ago. Based on the quality of this book, I will seriously consider buying all the other books Roberts has written. "The Storm of War" is just that good.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storm of War,
Storm of War
Seventy years ago, on the last day of summer, German police pulled a terrified man from a prison cell, drove him to the Polish border, stripped him and then dressed him in a Polish soldier's uniform. As he stood shaking by the frontier, they shot him dead. With the corpse as evidence, German radio announced the invasion of the Fatherland by Polish forces. Immediately, Wehrmacht troops stormed over the border to seek revenge. The Poles were comprehensively crushed.
It was a cruel and bloody beginning to a cruel and bloody war. When it was over, 6 years later, 50 million were dead. Many perished fighting on the battlefield, but many others were incinerated by fire bombs, starved, or killed by infectious disease. Jews and Gypsies were singled out for persecution, and tortured and gassed in concentration camps. Hell had invaded earth.
The story of the Second World War has been told often. Now Andrew Roberts, a British historian, has produced a new, one-volume account of the struggle. (It is available in Britain now, and will be published next year in the United States.) His account is succinct, and the single volume seems adequate for a modern reader. The author has researched his topic well, and has had access to primary sources not available previously. A reader feels he is hearing an accurate and complete account. (Last year Roberts published Masters and Commanders, an account of the formation and maintenance of the Allied alliance; it makes an excellent prelude to this work.)
Mr. Roberts has focused especially on the elements of Nazism that enabled Hitler's forces to storm successfully through Western Europe, defeating all but the British in a few weeks of blitzkrieg. He extols the astonishing genius of the Wehrmacht generals and the prowess of their troops. He notes the efficiency of the command structure, with an omnipotent fuehrer directing everything without opposition or delay.
And he also lays out in detail how it all eventually went hopelessly wrong for Hitler. His strategic blunders (especially his failure to finish off England before taking on the Soviet Union), his obdurate refusal to contemplate even strategic withdrawals, and his utter ignorance of the power of the enemy he had aroused in America, all eventually brought him to ruin. Indeed, his warped Nazi ideology, which forced him to disdain, because they were Jews, the very intellectuals who might have helped his cause and, instead, were driven into the arms of his enemies, brought about his downfall.
Although told from a European perspective (Roberts is British, and the war was fought for 2 years in Europe before Pearl Harbor moved the center of conflict toward the Pacific), the book covers both hemispheres fairly. Maps are arranged in chronology with the text, which helps the reader keep geographically oriented. And special topics, especially the horror of the Holocaust get their well documented due. Roberts includes transcripts of conversations among captured German officers, secretly taped by the British, that indict most of the military, not only the detested SS, as sharing in the vicious persecutions of Jews or others thought "subhuman."
This is military history at its best. The prose is crisp, the story moves steadily forward, and the vast enterprise is made understandable. And, of course, for a reader from the Western democracies, this is a Manichean tale of the victory of Good over unimaginable Evil. It is a ripping good story!
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