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The Bitter Sea: The Brutal World War II Fight for the Mediterranean Paperback – 1 Apr 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007203055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007203055
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 645,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for ‘The Guardsmen’:

‘Excellent…a historical classic brilliantly executed and an irresistible read.’ Guardian

‘Through skilful stitching of threads from personal and official papers, Ball has woven a superb panoramic tapestry of 20th-century Conservative politics…Compelling.’ Sunday Times

‘A magnificent achievement…Superb scholarship, profound insight and written in a style both incisive and flowing, this is a book for every taste. I cannot recommend it too highly.’
Spectator

From the Back Cover

With incisive strategic and political analysis, Simon Ball demonstrates in this dramatic narrative how the Mediterranean Sea lay at the heart of recent world history.
The British conceived the Mediterranean as the world's great thoroughfare, from Gibraltar in the west to the Suez Canal in the east. For Mussolini, the Mediterranean was 'Mare Nostrum', the stage for his violent vision of conquest. The French commanded an impressive navy and key ports. The Nazis found willing allies in the lands that encircled the sea. The Americans imagined a new kind of empire in the Mediterranean.
The blue waters of the Mediterranean, and its 'golden pavement' of surrounding nations, witnessed a brutal conflict of unlikely foes and opportunistic alliances. Spaniard fought Spaniard, German fought Italian, American confronted Arab and Briton killed Frenchman. The Mediterranean struggle was a modern, high intensity war - fought on land, sea and air. Its titanic battles stretched from Malaga to Beirut, from El Alamein to Anzio. It was also a war of propaganda, deception, insurgency and terrorism, where the lines of battle were not clearly defined. As the author demonstrates in sparkling prose, the Mediterranean was indeed the 'bitter sea'.
Based on the most up-to-date research, including newly-released intelligence dossiers, Simon Ball's compelling account untangles the plans and actions of the war's most powerful decision makers, famous and forgotten. The result is exceptionally readable and original.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An astonishing and refreshing insight into the real politic of the Mediterranean theatre. Shows human beings behaving like human beings not the two dimensional (war) comic book heroes I was brought up on. So good I've now bought and distributed three other copies to friends all of whom have been similarly impressed. I know it's a cliché, but I really 'can't 'recommend this highly enough'. Get it. Read it.
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Format: Hardcover
An excellent history of the Mediterranean naval war which restores balance by giving appropriate weight to the courage and effectiveness of Italian naval forces. The political back biting and manipulation amongst the higher levels of the British naval forces was new to me and fascinating as was the extent of strong Nazi sympathy amongst the French naval establishment. The setting of the sun on British naval power was well described and I finished the book with an enhanced respect for the Royal Navy.
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Format: Paperback
"The Bitter Sea" tells the story of the struggle for control of the Mediterranean Sea and its shores in de 1930s and 1940s. Although the Second World War plays a major role, Simon Ball gives in my opinion, an overview of the attempts and struggles of all parties involved to define the Mediterranean geographically and geo-strategically in order to organize it militarily and politically. The military campaigns of the Second World War function as the glue in a story with secret services, propaganda departments, guerilla leaders, politicians, diplomats and generals taking centre stage.

"The Bitter Sea" is a fascinating but difficult read. With an enormous scope, "The Bitter Sea" tells many stories: French - English tensions in the Middle East, the Greek civil war, sabotage actions in the Balkans, Italian special forces, the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini, London Home Office and English Headquarters in Cairo, Arab nationalism and Berlin, the decline of colonialism, American containment of Communism, Zionism and ultimately the rise of the United States as the dominant regional power and the Middle East as oil supplier. In addition, the fluid loyalties of many parties involved, driven by low motives and compensating (military) incompetence with politics, further adds to the complexity.

This book is well researched, and Ball has used numerous less known sources. In addition, the writer seems to revel in discrediting carefully constructed myths and generally accepted perceptions of events and persons. "The Bitter Sea" therefore assumes the reader has (a wide) knowledge of the history of the Mediterranean and the Second World War, making it not suitable for a novice looking for an introduction of the topic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was taken in by the subtitle of the paperback, "the brutal World War II fight for the Mediterranean" but did not find what I expected: this is a book about the various key personalities of the many nations involved (from Ciano to the Grand Mufti, Darlan to Attlee), their background politics, the major strategies and above all the personality clashes and their result on the tides of war; plus propaganda and deception excercises and their outcomes. I was expecting more on the military front, and was disappointed; this is not a military book so much as a political one. This was not what I was looking for, and therefore the three stars reflect my reaction to the book, rather than a critique of its style or research.
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