This is a very good work of narrative, popular history. It reminds you that, not so long ago, in the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents, the reign of kings, kings with real power. That was certainly the case for the kings of Germany (only so recently combined into a nation-state) and of Russia, much less so for Britain ... even still their Queen Victoria & her two successors had more apparent power than the current regime, if only on the diplomatic level, with their relatives elsewhere in Europe. The details of the lives of these various heads-of-state, their international networks and the political leadership, is a great story. I am not sure you can say the 3 leaders on the eve of World War I, together, had a great influence on the breakout and course of war, although the author does a great job showing that Kaiser Wilhelm (an extraordinarily peculiar person) did have a role in this.
The book is well organized, it does not have too many characters (although I am familiar with the general history) and is well narrated.
This book by Lynne Olson recovers some history that is not well-known to Americans, specifically the way in which a few key figures from the US, in the UK during the late-1930s & early-1940s, were instrumental in getting the US (rightfully) into rightfully into World War II. Contrary to the way in which we read this history today, this was a close-run thing, not obvious (especially during the ambassadorship of Joe Kennedy) to US leaders nor UK leaders that a true military collaboration would come to pass in the dark days of 1939 & 1940, when "England stood alone." It is well-worth getting this book if you are interested in the real history of this period or in WWII history.
I have dinged it slightly, 4 stars rather than 5, because the latter half of the book contains familiar material if you are familiar with the period after the US buildup, or of the complicated relationship between FDR, Churchill, DeGaulle & Stalin. And because Lynne Olson's previous book, "Troublesome Young Men - The Rebels who brought Churchill to Power ..." was so much better, more focused, than this one. Hopefully Audible will try to get that book in audio too.
I have read a number of works (or listened to them) about the origins and beginnings of WWII. Many good works in the bunch. This BBC program is a nice complement to those more narrative history and scholarly works. It uses first-person accounts and actual first-person radio recordings to sketch what happened in the summer of 1940. Unlike some programs of its type, it is not completely fawning of the British side, or blindly supportive of the aficionados of the Spitfire over the Hurricane. You get some critical material on these topics and others among the more familiar discussion of the Battle of Britain. This is one of those programs that is nice, relatively light history that can be bought and stored on your MP3 player when you need a respite from more serious and longer books. Production quality is exellent.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
I have been searching for a decent documentation of the history of modern Russia for quiet a while, and this audiobook delivers. It explores the philosophies, inner movements and conflicts that Russia had gone through. If you're interested in exploring the history of Russia in an unbiased, academic way, look no further.