This is the first book I've read (or listened to) about World War II as a whole. As a novice in the subject, I can't vouch for the thoroughness or accuracy of the book; but I CAN say that it's a vivid and wide-ranging account, covering everything from the battle of the Atlantic to the siege of Stalingrad; from the campaign in Burma to the battle for Norway. One particularly vivid (and distressing) chapter covers the Holocaust. Roberts' basic premise, as I understand it, is that Hitler lost the war for two main reasons: he overrated his own strategic intelligence (and no one dared to contradict him); and he sacrificed his war aims to the demands of an insane racist ideology.
Christian Rodska does a great job narrating this engrossing story. He does slide over into outright mimicry at times, when quoting historical figures, but that didn't bother me. The only thing that bothered me was the usual problem with war histories in audiobook format: the lack of useful maps. Fortunately atlases of World War II abound. I listened to the book with my iPod in one hand and an atlas in the other.
this is an excellent review of the war in Europe. from Hitler's rise to power to his suicide and the Nuremberg trials, this history covers every aspect of the war in Europe: the movements of forces, specific fronts, specific important battles, Nazi occupation, the Holocaust, etc. There is an excellent blend of text-book facts and eyewitness accounts. Everything has been collated into a whole which is definitely more than the sum of its parts. The narration brings it all to life, making what could have been a dry list of facts into an epic human struggle.
two tiny quibbles:
the war in India and the Pacific are given much shorter reviews, consisting mostly of "the main moves" on the relevant battlefields. this is partially justified by the allied "Germany first" policy. still, a little more depth would have been nice.
I was also not thrilled that the author often engaged in "what if"s. however, Roberts does this from a highly informed standpoint, so there's usually some merit to the exercise. moreover, at the end of the book he uses the accumulated speculations to drive home his point: that the defeat of Germany was by no means guaranteed, even though (according to Roberts) Nazism contained the seeds of its own downfall.
I found that the book provided a wealth of new and updated information on a large number of facets of the Second World War and for this reason alone I would recommend it to anyone who has even the least interest in the subject. Tremendous amounts of information have become available of the last few decades as archives are released by the various governments involved in the conflict that all bring a fuller understanding of one of the signal events of the Twentieth Century.
I first read WWII accounts in the 1960's as a child of a veteran. In retrospect I see how biased these were by their very nearness in time to the topic and the personal involvement of the writers. I am glad I picked this up to re-educate myself.
Several other reviewers have mentioned omissions, or lack of depth in coverage of specific, and, I feel, well known operations, as well as a slightly "British" tone. No matter those lacks, the coverage of the lesser known parts of the war are the parts I most appreciated.
Where I do disagree quite strongly with many of the other reviewers is in the narrator's interpretation. I personally found his need to assume the "voice" of Churchill, Hitler, Eisenhower, and indeed almost every single person who is ever quoted regardless of how briefly, to be incredibly distracting and unnecessary. I was coming to this book as a history, not as a docu-drama production.
At the most ridiculous, I feel I need to point out that while Mr. Rodska can certainly capture the tone and impetuosity of Hitler speech, the simple fact of the matter is that Hitler was always speaking in German and the quotes in the book are merely translations. No matter how reasonable Mr. Rodska's impersonation, I found myself smirking as I was always taken back to an old 1950's Danny Kaye movie where he does his own ranting impersonation of Hitler, "There will alvays be ein Engeland, BUT de vill be drivink Volksvagens!". Of the many lesser persons Rodska "imitates", there is simply no way for him to have studied recordings of so many minor figures. I suspect that there is little reason to believe that he did more than a gratuitously stereotyped and generic nationalistic "voice"-over.
To me this has taken away considerable weight and seriousness from what is otherwise a fine book.
Certainly go ahead and purchase this offering, just be forewarned that you will find yourself rolling your eyes when yet another brief and minor quotation is "performed" for your listening pleasure.
[Please note that I only gave the "Story" category 3 stars since the Second World War is history. We all can be pretty sure from the first page how it all turns out in the end.]
The book is a comprehensive overview of the war with a focus on British involvement. However rather than analyzing why key decisions were made, too much time is spent on the what if's. Fun talk over a beer or two, but tedious in a book of this length.
Didn't read print version.
It was all very memorable since I was in high school at the time and my brother was in the pacific on a destroyer escort ship.
His typical British pronunciation of many of the words. His total inability to pronounce most of the American names of important people. And finally his use of foreign language sayings without explaining what the English version was.
I enjoyed the book except for the reader.
I've enjoyed other performances by Christian Rodska, but I found this one very difficult. I'm not sure if it was just the quality of his voice, which (to me) is sharp and somewhat nasal in this performance. Or if it is the combination of the voice and text, because I found it difficult to listen long enough at one time to get a sense for the quality of the text. Definitely 'sample' this one before you buy it.
Listen to Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, because that's the classic. As good now as when first published. But this is a great follow up. This is WWII for a modern audience. It gives a context, and a perspective, that Rise & Fall can't provide.
The author was so Anglo-centric that it sounded like Britain won the war with some help from the Russians. Oh, the Americans pitched in a little, too. There were many statistics given on the number of planes, the amount of materiel used, the number killed, etc., but it is hard to take any meaning from them when listening to an audiobook. My mind tended to wander during the recitation of the number of each type of ship involved or how many tons of bombs were dropped during a particular battle.
The book was very heavily weighted toward the war in Europe; I would estimate he spent less than 20% of the book on the entire war in the Pacific.
George Guidall-I could listen to him read the phone book!
I learned a lot about the European part of the war.
I really dislike when narrators try to use different accents for the various people being quoted. The narrator did a passable impression of Churchill, but the American accents were typically broad, the German accents were laughable, and Hitler came across sounding rather twee. I prefer for narrators to simply change the tone of their voice to show that they are quoting someone; it is much less distracting.
I know, general histories of the whole of WWII are usually just too shallow to be enjoyable. Drink deep at history's fountain or not all.
But still like a moth to fire, I always read them, and as a result know where an author is going or when they repeat common myths, or make minor mistakes, like here, mixing up the Heer and the Wehrmacht. Still, I liked Robert's book as he focuses more on areas that typically receive little coverage---CBI theater, fighting near Antwerp, etc.
Nothing new, just different focus and good way to waste hours of a dreary commute!
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
This one volume summary of the vast global struggle that was WWII requires some familiarity with the great conflict. Roberts does has a few fresh things to say but in order to get to them he must rush past other elements of the war. This is unavoidable, I suppose with this subject. He is at his best when analyzing the causes for some of the key events. I especially appreciated his conclusion of the causes for Allied victory and Axis defeat.
Christian Rodska reads this expertly. He even throws in a few impressions of major characters. His depiction of Churchill is spot on.