Max Hastings's single volume history of World War II is a stunningly ambitious achievement, and also relentlessly grim. The suffering in every theatre of war is unimaginable and Mr Hastings catalogues that reality pretty much on every page of this thick book: I found it possible to read the book only in short bursts because of this. And Hastings doesn't hold back in pointing the finger of blame. Much is due to the cruel callousness of the Nazis, Japanese and Soviets; but he also highlights where the incompetence, and racism of allied leaders is to blame - in Burma, for example, where a British lack of care abandoned the locals; or in Italy, where African troops on the allied side seem to have committed many atrocities against the locals. Hastings doesn't have much time for the French role in the war either, accusing the nation of cooperating with the Nazis to high degree.
The book is a fantastic achievement, and marvellous to read the history of the whole war, rather than specific events; but it does bring home the remorseless horror that so many nations experienced. Max Hastings does an amazing job weaving all the threads into a coherent whole. It is essential, but sobering, reading.