Customer Review

89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent overview with some new accounts, 3 Nov. 2011
This review is from: All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 (Hardcover)
It is hard to find a narrative theme through a world war lasting for almost six years.

Weighing in at a huge 768 pages All Hell Let Loose certainly isn't a whistle stop tour through the conflict, and it doesn't dwell overlong on any particular areas.

The author himself in the forward says that he has deliberately steered clear of delving too deeply into the subjects of his previous books, so the fall of Berlin, the Overlord landings and the final days of Japan are barely commented on.

His researchers have dug up some interesting accounts, particularly from the Eastern front, and even long serving students of the second world war will find much new in the first person testimonies. This battlefield is firmly at the centre of the book - after all 90 per cent of the German fatalities occurred there and it is in Russia where the war was won and lost.

In a book of this scope one isn't really searching for a single revelation or argument. The conclusions - that the Russians would have won on their own, the Axis war effort was very incompetently run and by far and away the biggest allied contribution to victory was through America's industrial might - have been discussed in much greater depth elsewhere.

I felt that the biggest success of the book was how Hastings managed to convey the brutal indifference which characterised the Russian approach to victory - happily accepting enormous piles of their own dead with unimaginative tactics to eventually wear down the Wehrmacht.

The British don't come out overly well - our `finest hour' was having the courage, bolstered by the rhetoric and bulldog spirit of Winston Churchill, to stay in the war alone in 1940. Otherwise our performance in the Western Desert, the Far East and Italy was dull and plodding and characterised by poor commanders. The RAF and Royal Navy are hailed as by far the most successful services. Perhaps controversially he equates the allowing of millions of deaths in the Indian sub continent from starvation during the war to the treatment by the Germans of their conquered countries. The Germans allowed some to starve so their people would have food. The British did the same, and it is hard to argue with the logic.

Overall, I found All Hell Let loose to be an enjoyable read, and I was pleased, as a Hastings fan, that he didn't go over areas his pervious works covered in too much detail. A very solid history of the Second World War, and I raced through it in pretty quick time.
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