I daresay that there are quite a few people out there who have a layman's interest in the events of the Second World War but may be daunted by this book's 430-odd page length (nearly 500 including appendices and notes).
If this block of paper had been dumped in front of me as part of the necessary reading for a history exam I might've preferred to take up smoking instead.
But I'd have had little to fear. It's not dull or boring. It's not written in a slow or difficult manner. It's a thoroughly informative and exciting read that you'll constantly wish to get back to.
A good deal of the information in this book comes from personal letters and diaries written by those deeply involved in the colossal war-within-a-war that was the battle for Stalingrad. It justly exposes not only the horrific mistakes made by the leaders of both sides but the truly heartbreaking experiences of the hundreds of thousands of men and women involved.
The sheer level of atrocity goes beyond what the reader can possibly comprehend. The suffering far exceeds what was described in the levels of purgatory in Dante's 'The Divine Comedy'. This really was Hell on Earth.
But this is also a book that reveals the extraordinary resilience and unbelievable bravery that exists in mankind. There really is something of the superhuman revealed in these pages. And not only on the part of the mighty Russian fighters but of the Germans forces too.
Within these pages the reader is frequently reminded that the people involved are simply humans like the rest of us. Not all the Wermacht were cold blooded Nazi killers, not all the Red Army were ruthless bloodthirsty Stalinists. They were just people driven or forced to achieve an aim.
If only this book could be a final lesson to all of us to desist from the kind of insanity it describes.
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