One Size Fits None
The three part series by Richard J. Evans is an excellent history of the Third Reich split into three phases: the early years (until 1933), pre-war (1933-1939) and war years. This book is well researched, well thought out, well planned. It's really the foundation for the other two books, if you are going to listen to them.
On one level, reading this book is like sitting in the theater watching the stagehands set up the stage. You know who's going to be coming out and which chairs they'll sit in. You have a general idea where the chairs will probably be, and when the characters will be coming onstage (and sometimes leaving in unfortunate circumstancs). But in this book, the characters aren't entirely the individuals we all know. Some of them are the ideologies that drive the individuals (and the ordinary people whose names we'll never know). After you've heard this book you will come away knowing how the Nazis scrabbled and bullied their way into power. Themes set up in this book persist through the series. If you skipped this one, you would be fine with the others - but if you do listen to it, you'll get much more out of the rest. It could easily stand on its own. But as you get near the end, you're glad there are two more volumes. There's still so much to say.
Although I read all types of "books" I usually review non-fiction. I have found that reviews of fiction are easily available while many people shy away from the "harder" non-fiction reads. In my opinion, many good reads are thus lost to the average person. I especially enjoy history - both past and present, individuals and countries.
The author has divided the book into sections such as education, military, history, culture, etc. which makes it very easy to see and for the first time understand how the country was taken over. Most books and documentaries attempt to give a linear history which becomes very complicated resulting in the loss of a lot of information. Some of the information given has been mentioned previously but the overall relationship to the coming of Hitler has never been as thoroughly explained until now. I have been reading on Hitler for several years and like others, have been searching for the reason that the German people turned to him for a leader. In my opinion, this book finally answers the question. Whether you are already familiar with the story of the German people and Hitler or just beginning - there is much to learn from this author's research and his organization of the massive amount of data available on the subject.
The book is in narrative form and is the first of a three book series on Germany. I am now reading the second book in the series, The Third Reich in Power, which is focusing on the actual take-over of Germany by the Nazi Party..
This book (and the other two books in the trilogy) are must reads for anyone who wants to learn about Nazi Germany. The first book was especially compelling because it gave me the background that I often find lacking in examinations of World War II and the Nazis. I appreciated. At times, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of detail and because I did not know the names and their spellings. I simply listened to the book again to pick up those details. The book is depressing, heartbreaking, and even on occasion uplifting. It was nice to see a well rounded, objective approach to the subject. The narrator did an excellent job. I wish that he was the narrator of another book I am about to finish. It would have made the other work much easier to wade through. I cannot recommend this work highly enough.
The White Queen
Yes, but only if reading the actual text was impractical. Despite how distracting the poor narration can be at times, the material is compelling enough that even some truly egregious errors and disorienting stops and "stutters" are able to be ignored.
This book is the answer to questions that linger after reading all the rest. Not that it provides the reader with a clear, black and white answer to the question "How could anyone murder millions of people?"; not at all. That is left to the reader to formulate from the evidence provided.
As such, it is a mistake to condemn the author for distancing himself from making moral judgments about the events he describes. Evans has no need to spend valuable time and space on such exposition; that is the reader's job. It's his job to narrate events and provide guidance in the realm of interpretation, cause, and effect. He doesn't ignore the moral consequences.
Rather, he highlights the landmarks on what was essentially a moral "journey" for the Germans. The rantings of polemicists about the "Jewish Question" eventually turned that phrase into the modern day equivalent of "The War on Terror" or "Wall Street vs. Main Street Economics"; that is, it went from being something only a few extremists yapped on about to something that was on the table in any discussion and was accepted the same way many Americans right now accept that Al Qaeda and Muslims started the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or that rich financiers destroyed our economy.
Note; I'm not saying they are wrong! I'm saying it's a valid topic for discussion with a clear, anonymous, conspiratorial villain of vast powers, and a way of framing a "question' as to guarantee its "answer".
What this book does is explain how what we think of as a single nation of "Germans" was really a conglomeration of various minority populations that had been consolidated only in the latter half of the 19th Century. This union was held together by leaders with strong personalities and iron fists.
The failures of the "kinder, gentler" post-World War I Weimar Republic to stabilize the economy, feed the people, and make any kind of meaningful decisions did not instill respect for democratic rule. It only promoted nostalgia for when the trains ran on time, reinforcing the romantic myth of the "Leader".
Disturbing parallels abound throughout history, not the least of which was the one in Italy at the same time. "Il Duce" means the same thing as "Der Fuhrer", and this fact only stresses that although Germany was devastated after World War I, it was not the only European nation threatened with disintegration from the foundations up at that time.
In short, this is a great buy. I don't really regret ignoring warnings about the narrator, because being able to listen to the book being read aloud is a major convenience and a prime reason for buying it for that purpose alone. I just don't have my hands and eyes free to read when I am working, and being able to switch between music and a book for variety is wonderful. The narrator is poor, there is no doubt about that. But I was able to get past that and concentrate on the material. It is that compelling, and definitely worth your Audible credit despite the flaws.
The narrator is clearly inexperienced and inconsistent in his pronunciation of relatively well-known and simple German, French, Russian, and English words. I can only deduce that a very incomplete knowledge of the subject matter itself is at the root of the narrator's strange pauses, emphasis on the wrong words, and the overall tendency to read this the same way one reads a grocery list or a Chinese take-away menu out loud.
I like the way the author strings events together. He is especially good when explaining the historical contect of some of the Nazis' legislative actions and showing how they weren't necessarily as radically thought of as we do now after 80 years. He showed how many of the political parties and actors agreed with the actions taken by the Nazis after they got into power. He did well in explaining how their message before coming to power was pretty generic, so that most segments of the population could agree on the broad principles that they espoused. Not until after they got into power did they show their total disregard for anyone who disagreed with them and their ruthlessness in eliminating dissent, segment by segment. It gives meaning to the old saying,
The author's stated intent was to introduce this topic to those who knew nothing. I know some of the topic but have never had it tied together like this book does. The author also dumbed down some of the German phrases like
A great fan of stories and audiobooks. Good ones.
Interesting and engrossing. Like looking through an in-depth book without the eye strain, and seeing how an evil empire evolved.
Someone that enjoys readings from someone that reads like reading a textbook.
How Hitler managed to weasel himself into power
As stated before, he sounded like he was reading a textbook. His reading was dry.
What should have sparked anger, sparked apathy.
Fortunately I got the book on sale, so I would say that I got my money's worth, but I may end up buying the book on kindle (if available). The Computerized voice seems more exciting.
Pratt's narration is abysmal. His pacing is odd. He makes pitching choices (adding or not adding emphasis thorugh vocal pitch) that are simply wrong, constantly mis-cuing the listener. But, worst of all, he constantly adds incongruous pauses throughout the narration, often coming to a full stop in the middle of a sentence. He pauses luxuriously before every "and" or "that" and, most annoyingly, for no understandable reason at random positions in every third or fourth sentence. The listener is put in the position of trying to reconstruct the pacing and meaning of the previous sentence while trying to listen to the next. I found myself so annoyed and distracted by the narration at times that I completely lost track of Richard Evan's content.
Pratt also mis-pronounces common German words, like "volk", which is unforgiveable in a book discussing the history of the Third Reich. (This is the kind of thing the producer of the audiobook should have corrected.)
I've just finished listening to the preface and first two chapters and am seriously considering stopping at this point and moving on to another title. The content, which, from what I can tell, is very well-researched and well-written, is entirely and sadly eclipsed by an incompetent narrator.
I wasn't sure I would listen to this entire book, but I found it very interesting and look forward to the next volume.
Nazi Germany is the great boogeyman of the West, most chillingly because Germany was one of the most advanced, progressive states in the world at the time. This book does a great job digging into the how - including both personal and global accounts, and bringing cultural, political, personal analysis in addition to the dry historical facts.