This is the first book I've read by Norman Stone. According to his own blurb, Stone is 'one of Britain's greatest historians'. Based on this book I can't agree.
Stone has achieved a remarkable feat: in 200 pages he has covered (or, rather, skimmed over) the history of World War 2. The narrative is in most places coherent, and reading this book does give you a general overview of what happened when, and why it was that Germany made such rapid gains early in the war, and yet by 1943 it was clear that they were going to lose. To achieve this in such a slim volume deserves a lot of credit, and hence the four stars.
And yet...the book suffers from some significant flaws: 1. It's very opinionated. Stone clearly has strong opinions about what should and shouldn't have happened in World War 2 (the best example is that D-Day should have occurred in 1943 not 1944) and also about the competence or otherwise of the various historical figures. In places this opinion is refreshing; in other places it gets in the way of a clear picture of the history of the time. 2. It suffers from a lack of maps. Particularly on the Eastern front, the geography of which I don't know very well at all, the author describes many places, battle lines, fronts etc, and very rapidly covers advances or retreats between them. I was, to be honest, completely lost. I needed two or three detailed maps - there are maps in the back of the book, but they are at a very small scale (Europe as a whole, or the Pacific). 3. In places it loses its coherence. Whilst the book overall does a good job of covering the ground, in parts the author jumps between fronts and/or time periods. I couldn't keep up.
Overall, then, I'm not quite sure who the audience would be for this book. Originally I thought it would be great for those who know very little about WWII. But because of the opinionatedness and difficulty in following the narrative in parts, I think it would be better suited to someone who already knows a little about the period. And yet for someone like this, the book is probably a little too lightweight.
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