16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Overview,
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This review is from: The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War (Hardcover)
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.