Anthony Beevor's work is always excellent. The Kindle version is, however, very poor. It shows all the signs of having been scanned from the original book and the OCR software has produced numerous irritating errors. It is perfectly clear that the Kindle version has not been proof read and no thought has given to the usability of the maps. Accurate detail is essential for a book of this kind and the Kindle version can only be described as shoddy. I would have expected better from Penguin.
This book is very well written - it is storytelling at its best - and therfore for the general reader - but also an amateur historian like me found it a great pleausure to read. Beevors Berlin book is recommendable as well, and I am looking forward to read his book on Leningrad.
No one like Anthony Beevor to make you think about the brutality of total war. His style makes it impossible to put it down, from the experience of the frontline soldier to the high spheres were decisions were made. A must-read book for anyone interested in the Eastern Front.
I have read and re-read this book because of its brilliance. It is chilling but very very accessible. The humanity and inhumanity is so well written that it appears almost to be a work of fiction. You do not need to be an avid war historian to enjoy this book as I found most of the interesting parts to be on the day to day life in the kessel and the slow ebbing away of all hope that the 6th army would be saved. The letters home are particularly sad, many were found in a mail sack of a plane that was shot down by the Russians.
This book should be used in schools to highlight the desperation and reality of war.
This review is based on the Cassell edition of 2002.
Beevor's book is a highly readable and detailed account of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. It not only describes its military aspects but also provides the reader with a good description of the rifts that had been running through Spain in all directions - religious, political, regional - ever since the Carlist wars two generations earlier and which caused the mayhem in the first place.
To understand the situation obtaining at the time, the reader may want to look also into other books on the subject, such as Stephen Koch's "Hemingway, Dos Passos and the Murder of José Robles" or Norman Lewis' "The Tomb in Seville", because it is important to realize that Spain's internal strife did not start with Franco's coup and that, in spite of the elections in the early part of 1936, the country was extremely unstable on many levels.
Once the fighting had started, it quickly became a conflict between the Bolsheviks who essentially dominated the republican government and had been quick to eliminate all possible competitors - Anarchists, Trotskists, Clericals etc. - on the one hand and Franco n the other. Seen in this light, there is a question which imposes itself but is not treated by the author: how are we to judge the outcome of the conflict when all the hurly-burly was done in the Spring of 1939?
What would Europe have looked like in the 1940s (or later) if the "Republicans", i.e. the Reds, had won? The Soviet intervention did certainly not come at the spur of the moment, but was part and parcel of Bolshevik world-wide strategy; France, at the time, was shuttling back and forth between a communist-led popular front and the Conservatives and there was a good chance for an alliance of communist forces across the Pyrenees, which would have brought the remainder of Europe into a very dangerous situation; the Soviet Union would have gained a strong foothold in the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Suez and would have acquired bases on the Atlantic from Dunkirk to Bilbao.
It is difficult to condemn Franco for the punishments he meted out against his enemies after his victory, because the premeditated and politically motivated massacres committed by the Republicans, as early as November, 1936, at Paracuellos and elsewhere - to say nothing of Catalonia - demonstrate what would have happened in Spain if Franco had not carried the day. Clearly, though, aside from such aspects, it seems to me that the material conditions obtaining in Spain, say, in 1950, were a great deal better than those behind the Iron Curtain, even in countries like Czechoslovakia which was essentially untouched by the war.
While the Soviet Block fell apart under its own weight, Franco prepared Spain for a better future by opening the way for a return to a modern democratic state and by stepping down when the job was done.
Addendum, 18 June 2014
Ocasionally, the internet presents some surprising items of background information. In this particular case, it is the Wikipedia entry on Major Hugh Pollard which reads:
Major Hugh Bertie Campbell Pollard (born London 6 January, 1888: died Midhurst district March, 1966) was an author, firearms expert, and a British SOE officer. He is chiefly known ... for the events of July 1936, when he and Cecil Bebb flew General Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Morocco, thereby helping to trigger the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War."
Pollard was a member of the British Embassy staff in Madrid throughout WW2, working under Sir Samuel Hoare, the British ambassador.
Now, we all know that Franco's soldiers were flown from Morocco to Spain by the Germans, but it does come as a surprise that, quietly, in the background, other forces were at work as well. In the 2002 edition of the book available to me, it is stated on p. 80 that the plane was a (presumably British) aircraft chartered in London and that it had an English pilot, but no mention is made of any SOE personnel on board.
I had wanted to read this book for a long time, but because of its length and complexity I wanted to be able to devote a few days to it. The research and military detail were outstanding, if difficult to follow at times. The maps were not of a very good quality on my kindle screen, not sure why, and one disadvantage of the medium is that it is harder to refer back to previous pages than with a conventional book, though this is far outweighed by the weight and portability advantages. I read it with the same compulsion as a novel, which is unusual for me with non-fiction. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in history/politics/medicine/psychology/economics and general survival. I will definitely read more of this author's works.
This book is very heavy going,totally unlike the author s Stalingrad,Berlin,D-Day etc.The vast number of Spanish names and all the military ranks are impossible to tie-in with the narrative.The praise for this book all seems to originate from Spanish academics and politicians.Give this one a miss!
This event is one of the most intriguing in WW2 history. A horrific battle over a city of rubble. The fanatical fight between two ideologies that would not retreat or give a inch not matter what the cost.
With 100+ reviews at 5-star i'm not going to give a long winded review. Needless to say this book and story should be read to appreciate how far we have come compared to today's "wars" which are gruesome but nowhere near as brutal. Where thousand's upon thousands of people died, where armies consisting of hundreds of thousands of combatants where surrounded and taken prisoner's of war. Where real starvation and human suffering on such a large scale was endured by so many people.
totally envelopped in this history gripping marvel!! horridly gripping, a proper read for any modern history buff, get Berlin after reading this, follows on perfectly in this gritty and can't put it down way!!
This is as good a work about the greatest battle of the 20th century as you are likely to find. Beevor has very obviously done a tremendous amount of research. It shows. He lets you know what the common soldier both German and Russian was thinking and the suffering of both armies. The whole story is horribly tragic resulting in the terrible deaths and suffering of hundreds of thousands of young men. It should be a red flag (no pun intended here) to world leaders who too easily send our young men to war, but I fear it will not. Beevor has done a fine job and well bears out what General Sherman said 150 years ago, "War is hell".