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4.6 out of 5 stars128
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 January 2014
The sheer scope of this book is impressive. It's a period of history that Westerners don't tend to focus on and, as a result, I had very little awareness of events that occurred in the immediate aftermath of WW2. Lowe covers a lot of ground: the persecution of the Jews, ethnic cleansing, population exchanges, wars within wars (for some countries, WW2 was merely a distraction from civil unrest), superpowers on both sides of the iron curtain propping up corrupt, brutal regimes etc.

Not only is this book hideously detailed, but Lowe excels in one particular aspect: he goes to great lengths to place all events in context. Even with the appropriate back story, atrocities cannot be excused, but the reader can at least see the path that led to such terrible events -- typically a cycle of violence that continually escalated. Vengeance plays a huge role in this story, too.

It's a depressing read, but incredibly illuminating.
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on 3 May 2012
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this period of history. It offers new insights and contains information not usually covered by books about this era. It is well researched and informative.
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on 27 April 2012
I'm sure we've all heard of the numbers involved relating to deaths in World war 2. For me, at least, most were just that - numbers. This book breaks them down into very recognisable groups with comparisons aggainst national and city populations which made this far more of an eye opener than I was expecting. The situation is well explained and gives context to the chaos in post war Europe.I ended up reading this a chapter at a time since the facts, which were well explained, became rather depressing when reading too much in one go.

This sort of book is long overdue. It is very educational and the solid bibliography gives one ample opportunity to cross check what has been written about. I think this book is well worth the money.
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on 4 October 2015
To my eyes, images of the end of WW2 are predominantly those of smiling,ecstatic crowds in the streets of London or Paris, celebrating the end of the conflict. Well, this book is about things I never knew or knew very little about. It is a harrowing, distressing, compulsive account of the hatred, violence, resentment and vengeance that swept the whole of Europe for months and even years after hostilities officially ended.
I knew about the plight of millions of displaced people, the treatment of German prisoners of war, the suffering of women and children, the return of surviving Jews,etc...But what about more examples of lawlessness and chaos like the repulsive civil war in Greece, the insidious communist takeover of Eastern Europe, the shocking ethnic cleansing in Poland and Czechoslovakia , the rampant, persistent antisemitism, a little everywhere,...
Every chapter in this book is intensely disturbing and shocking . And now I think of 2015 : the constant threat posed by Putin's Russia, the offensive attitude of many East Europeans towards Syrian and Afghan refugees, the smouldering hatred between Croats, Muslims and Serbs , the Far Left in power in a Greece where the extreme Right is also all powerful and I ask myself : what have we learnt ? What is the purpose of knowing about past History ? Should this war that ended nearly 70 years ago be " regarded as little more than Ancient History " ? Should it be remembered ? It should not be allowed to poison the present, says Keith Lowe.
This is without any doubt one of the most powerful and impressive History books that I have ever read. Mr Lowe is a genius.
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on 1 June 2012
This book is a must-read for those interested in 20th century history. I can't begin to describe how fascinated I was by the subject matter. As with all history books I read, I was left thirsty for more content and more detail: What about rationing and social change in the UK? What about America? How did the physical reconstruction take place? Where did all the stolen works of art surface? What about Russia and the Stalin terrors? And so on. Not a fault of this book, but the themes are so weighty that any single-tome history is going to seem superficial.

As for style, well maybe I've been spoiled by Antony Beevor and Max Hastings. Keith Lowe's style was a little grating, in themes (eg. a repeated hint on psychological impacts but no in-depth exploration) and in language (eg. every time he used italics, I winced). He also seems to have an inconsistent approach to statistics (are they or are they not important - and why?). But my biggest gripe with this book was that it failed to bring the subject matter to life in the way that Beevor, for example, does superbly. Lowe uses diaries and real-life anecdotes to great effect - but not sufficiently. For me, this is crucial for what is, in effect, a social history and to bring to life the harsh realities of the subject matter.

All in all, highly recommended: this book has made me appreciate life more.
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on 9 February 2014
"Savage Continent" by Keith Lowe is the harrowing story of Europe between 1944 and 1950, a relatively unknown, chaotic and yet highly politicised period in Europe's recent past. Lowe has written a superb account of this interlude between the Second World War and the Cold War.

Born and raised on the continent, this book has put the stories of my people in the bigger picture of Western Europe during and after "the War". However, the (scale of the) horrors taking place in Eastern Europe was mostly new to me. Especially the war between Poland and the Ukraine, the pogroms against surviving Jews, and the massacres by Yugoslav partisans made for spine chilling reading.

What I found breathtaking is that by changing the scope of the war in terms of timelines slightly and viewing events from a slightly different angle, carefully built myths in Eastern and Western Europe are exposed. As a result, large parts of twentieth century Europe can be interpreted differently. Lowe cannot be praised highly enough for this achievement.

Al in all, "Savage Continent" is history at its best: interesting subject and scope, good pace, first hand accounts, meticulous research and analysis, and compelling conclusions. It gives an immediacy and impact not many other books have had on me. Highly recommended.
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on 7 December 2012
i visited poland this year and reading this book gave me a real insight to what was done and what has been achieved excellent
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on 8 December 2013
Never has a book completely gripped me from introduction to end...This is truly a far better history read than I expected. The moanings of British people of how we suffered as a nation after the war with shortages and rationing pales into nothing compared to the brutality that waged on after the war and beyond in all parts of Europe especially on women, children and elderly people. That is not to detract from what Britain endured but compared to other nations, Britain remained a very safe place to be and thankfully so...The shocking revalation of mothers who had children with German soldiers in Norway only to have their children murdered at birth or put in state orphanages and then these women were deported and classed as mentally defective, left me pondering as to just how liberal these countries really were and have they come to terms with their own shame. After all, Britain can hold its head high : the same cant be said for the mass majority of Eurpean nations who either joined Nazism, went along with it for their own nationalistic hatred or then accepted/were part of the communist episodes that followed 1945...This book deals factually with sensitive subjects and leaves you with a chill.. (see the Yugoslav chapters)..
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Over the last few years I have read several histories of World War Two which give some detail of the events in Europe immediately before and after the official cessation of hostilities in May 1945 . This book , however , succeeded in pulling together the all various themes I had already covered with my reading , added to them , and greatly expanded my understanding of the violently unsettled nature of Europe in the immediate post-war period . It is a history few , here in Britain , are familar with . Keith Lowe is to be applauded for both his research and the quality of his writing . A minor masterpiece that is a superb addition to any understanding of twentieth century European history . Five stars is an inadequate rating .
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on 9 May 2012
A very informative and enlightening read about a dark period in Europe's history. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and the research and care that has gone into it is commendable. I had thought things returned back to normal in Europe quickly after the war but obviously not and this book gives a clear but horrific picture of what happened. Well worth reading.
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