This book is very well written and narrated, but its subject matter is a bit narrow in appeal. It details the final years of Churchill's life. As a Churchill admirer, I enjoyed the book and felt it was a way of spending time in the presence of the great man WSC was. You will learn about people around WSC and more about the issues of the day, but there are no bright new insights into his character.
The author is a very literate and amusing guy, who only occasionally uses this forum to settle political scores. Two strikes against this book are: 1) the first quarter is about the author prior to his association with Churchill. That may not appeal to everyone but I liked that part. 2) This is perhaps the WORST sound editing I have ever heard in an audio book. Things go along fine for a stretch and then there's duplicate lines, long pauses, repeated words, etc. It's as if no one bothered to listen to the final audio product and correct the many recording errors. I don't know how to rate this defect, The narration, by the author's nephew, is very good, the story is interesting, and the book overall is fine. But if there were a category for "sound editing", I would give one star.
I was eager to find a series which told suspenseful stories beautifully written about compelling characters in an historically accurate way. I love the work of Eric Ambler, and also enjoy Alan Furst, who in my mind is less consistently good. Philip Kerr's work came as a huge disappointment in every respect. The characters are so unlikeable I found it hard to care what happened in the story. The historical atmosphere created here is very thin; the language is vulgar, the story contrived. Ambler or Furst, this is not.
We are living in a golden age for histories of the Second World War, it seems, because Lynne Olson has produced a brilliant and fascinating work which covers new ground. One might have thought that nothing new could be said about the Battle of Britain, or the FDR Churchill relationship, but Olson proves that wrong. The author tells the fascinating story of life in England during the war years through the thoughts and actions of three American agents in history: Ambassador Gil Winant, journalist Edward R. Murrow, and head of Lend-Lease program, Averell Harriman. The work is meticulously researched and the story wonderfully told. The last portion of the book does cover very familiar ground, but the bulk of the work is important history being told here for the first time in this work.
I agree with another reviewer who stated that Ian Toll's earlier book, Six Frigates, was interesting, but that Pacific Crucible is amazingly good. I have read widely on the naval war in the Pacific and would rank this as one of the very best books on the topic ever. It is wonderfully researched, capturing both the historical influences affecting the decisions of the navies on both sides, as well as the lived experiences of the participants. Toll begins the work with an analysis of the impact of Captain Mahan's book, "The Influence of Sea Power on History". Also fascinating were his chapter on the cultural and ideological developments in Japan prior to the war, and his psychological portraits of Yamamoto and of Nimitz (each of whom deserves a full biography). I am not a fan of Grover Gardner generally, but he did an excellent job here.
My only complaint is an out-of-key note in the epilogue, where Toll uncritically cites a comment from Robert Sherwood, the playwright turned FDR speech writer, that World War II was widely unpopular with the US public. This is an extra-ordinary claim not borne out by the historical record, at least on its surface, made by a person promoting the reputation of FDR as the figure who held us all together. To accept such a statement without further research into its historical accuracy was a slip, in my opinion. It's the small portion that makes the whole work 99 and 44/100% excellent.
If you enjoy the naval histories of James Hornfischer, you'll love Pacific Crucible. It is a great book.
Metaxas writes history, not as an historian would, but like a high school student: first this happened, then that happened, and then this other thing. He has no overarching thesis to develop, no interpretation of Bonhoeffer or his life. When he does offer commentary, it is almost always a banal repeating of a direct quotation in slightly different words.
Bonhoeffer was an extraordinary person and not even the author's plodding narrative can hide this. But I regret that so many people will know Bonhoeffer only through this caricature of a biography.
The narration is fine, except for most of the German pronunciation, which again sounds like an American high school student, and not very close to how we actually pronounce German words.
It may take ten years or more before there is room in the publishing world for a new English language biography of Bonhoeffer, but I predict this one will quickly and rightly be forgotten once that happens.
The writing is great, the narration perfect, but the story is overwhelmed by the profound nihilism of the author. There is not one single likeable character. No one ever acts for decent reasons; everything is always a cold calculation. I found it very hard to care about the characters.
I really enjoyed this story of the assassination of President Garfield. This book does an excellent job of conveying the kind of man Garfield was. The story told is riveting, and it concerns a president about whom I knew very little. So if you enjoy learning a lot and hearing a well told story with solid narration, you will like this book.
There are two faults with the book, however. First, the author tries to create suspense by having Alexander Graham Bell race to invent an instrument which would find the bullet and save the president's life. This narrative, though fascinating, is factually off-base as the bullet's continued presence in the body had nothing to do with the president's death. The author makes clear elsewhere, and correctly, that the president died of sepsis from infections caused by the doctors, not by the bullet. Many Civil War soldiers, e.g., lived long lives with bullets still in their bodies.Second, the author makes over-inflated claims that the death of Garfield was THE thing that brought the nation together and created a national, as opposed to regional, identity for all Americans. If this were true, you would find evidence of this in multiple places, such as national organizations and societies being formed, a national newspaper, etc. It's a large claim that the author supports with a single piece of evidence, a newspaper editorial.The two instances of the lack of scholarly rigor do not detract from the compelling story told in this book.
I really enjoyed this book detailing the incredible story and sacrifice of "Torpedo 8" at Midway and Guadacanal. The story is told from the point of view of the men who lived it, in the style of a Stephen Ambrose book. I much preferred this to anything by Ambrose, who is just OK as a story teller. This book, together with The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailor, are my two favorite books on the War in the Pacific. If you enjoy the day to day, play by play, tale of the men who fought and died in that theater, you will love this book. 5 stars.
This is a wonderful book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I think the author brilliantly executes the idea of Cicero's slave remembering the early career of the young Cicero. It is great history, combined with courtroom drama and interesting characters. The narrator is flawless.
This is intended to be the first part of a trilogy. I only the same narrator is used and eagerly await the next two installments.
I enjoyed this book and learned an enormous amount. It is not so much a blow by blow account of the battle as much as a "meta-history" of the sociological forces at play in 1805. There are long discussions of what "honor" and "duty" meant in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. There's a comparison of Wordsworth and Nelson. So in this sense it is a very academic study and sometimes falls prey to the excesses that pass for scholarly learning in some quarters-- e.g. the interpretation of King Henry's speech at Agincourt in terms of Freudian sexuality. Or the personification of Violence which runs throughout the book and leads to statements like :Paradoxically the violence of battle was a release, a calm in the midst of the storm... etc.
If your interest is in military history, this work will disappoint. If you want to learn a lot about the period from the extremely well-read author, then this work might be of interest.
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