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Customer Review

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Resource But Very Brief, 23 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: 1939: Countdown to War (Hardcover)
This interesting little tome sets out the diplomatic events of the period 24th August - 3rd September 1939 as the world stared out on the brink. In 6 short chapters Overy details the efforts - and the thinking behind them - of Britain, France, Poland and Germany to avoid a general European conflict. Grippingly written, the book tells of the tragic failed initiatives, ultimatums and shuttle diplomacy conducted by the likes of Halifax, Henderson, Chamberlain, Daladier, Bonnet and others, and the moves made by Hitler, Ribbentrop and Goring in the war of nerves leading up to the outbreak. Overy explains that while both sides fervently hoped the other would back down, Hitler was genuinely convinced that although he was taking a risk, when it came down to it the Western powers would not fight. The writer is ultimately sceptical of the view that Hitler had always harboured plans of world domination and seems to feel that Poland should have relented to some German demands in order to avert the conflict. He also writes interestingly about the significance of the effects of mental stress and sleeplessness on the decision-making process in those few crucial days. As well as the thoughts and actions of the statesmen, Overy occasionally quotes from letters and diaries of civillians to give a good picture of the atmosphere of the time.

I found the book to be a fascinating resource and I imagine it would be very useful for students, but I must point out that for an RRP of £12.99 it is a very short volume - it stands at only 126 pages in stockinged-feet i.e. including the preface but not the notes & index. The recent book "Outbreak: 1939" is more physically substantial for your money and covers a much bigger part of the year but is very choppy and emphasises the people's experience more, consisting in large part of short paragraphs from various diaries in the run-up to (and immediate aftermath of) the declaration of war. Overy's book flows well and is well written but you will be done in a couple of hours.
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Location: Manchester, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 827,383