17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Fine idea badly executed,
This review is from: Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
Kershaw's book is a great idea: what were the decisions taken in 1940 - 41 which ultimately decided the course of the Second World War? What was the context behind these decisions and how did they play out? There's a great deal of scholarship in here and each chapter is well-researched, even if the conclusions could be summarised much more concisely than here.
My problem is that the writing is poor, often terrible. Kershaw likes to cram a lot into his sentences: so much so that you lose the plot half-way through.
Here's an example:"[Roosevelt] would often receive [Cordell] Hull and the sharp-minded, urbane and polished, but pompous and formal Under-Secretary of State, Sumner Wells - who had attended the same upper-class preparatory school as the president, had worn white gloves while playing in the country as a child and still had an "air of suspecting lurking contamination in his surroundings", his demeanour at best "on the chilly side" - while lying in bed at the White House, propped up against his pillows." That's the President who is propped on his pillow in case you couldn't work it out!
Here's another: "By the time Hitler had overrun what remained of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, soon to be followed by Britain's guarantee for Poland, war in Europe within the near future seemed practically a certainty." I think what he means is that Hitler overran Czechoslovakia and then overran Britain's guarantee to Poland, but who knows? I'm afraid that these roadblocks to reading stop me in my tracks and have left me somewhat disappointed with this book. Perhaps next time Kershaw's editors can help him out.