10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Concise, Witty and Powerful,
This review is from: World War Two: A Short History (Kindle Edition)
If you have read accounts of WW2 by Hastings, Beevor, Roberts plus a host of others why would you bother with yet another book on the subject? You probably wouldn't if it had not been written by a superb historian called Norman Stone. Professor Stone has a reputation as one of the finest historians around thanks to his magnificent account of the Eastern Front in WW1 and his excellent short book on Hitler. He is also a first-class tutor.
In this book he has achieved the almost impossible task of writing a comprehensive history of the Second World War in under 200 pages, 200 pages of very readable, incisive and witty writing. The book does not claim to be a detailed account of the war. To criticise it for not repeating what is available elsewhere is therefore unfair.
Norman Stone reaches back into the 19th century and many of his pithy points raise important questions for today. He, unlike many, does not regard the British contribution to victory as irrelevant. He says Britain was the hero,the USA the victor while Poland was the martyr. This will upset those who claim the war was won by Russia. Stone rightly praises the importance of Ultra and the anti-U-boat campaign. A welcome point is that he recognises the importance of the strategic bombing campaign and how it stopped the Germans gaining command of the air. This was a major reason why the USSR survived. For far too long this has been ignored by historians, some of whom are still unable or unwilling to understand the importance of the bombing of Germany.
Stone loves sweeping generalisations many of which are nevertheless insightful and accurate. His wit is on display when he writes:'The French tiptoed from the Maginot Line, and when fired upon, tiptoed back'.
He rightly emphasises the importance of the Eastern Front, pointing out that battles like Gomel are almost unknown in the West despite it being the greatest single German victory of the war, in which Russia lost half a million men.
He notes that the Russians lost more in the siege of Leningrad than Britain and the USA did combined in the whole war.
Do not be put off by the title of this superb book. It may be 'short' but it is full of wisdom, wit and wonderful facts that should not be missed by anyone who likes clarity, scholarship and humour all in one book.