History has always told us that the Soviet Union won the Second World War. They defeated the Germans in front of Moscow in the winter of 1941; they stalemated them at Leningrad; they kicked their swastikas at Stalingrad in 1943; they beat them at Kursk in July 1943 and rolled to Berlin in 1945.
Now comes John Mosier.
No, no. The Germans didn't lose. They just, well, didn't WIN.
Moscow? Retreated to winter positions.
Stalingrad?? Oh, see, what we think of as Stalingrad, the encirclement of the 6th Army, well, you know, it was more complicated than just that. There were four operations at the same time, see, and the others didn't do as well, and that encirclement thing, well - they got lucky. He actually says the surrender of Von Paulus was curious in light of the fact that at that very moment Von Manstein's 4th Panzer Army was practically there, and they had beer and pizza all ready to go. Fact, Dr. Mosier: Manstein, who HAD been trying to get to Stalingrad to break out the 6th Army, was forced to turn away on December 23, 1942. You're talking fiction.
Kursk was NOT, as we've been led to believe, the greatest tank battle of all time. The Germans would have won, see, they'd practically put it in the bag, except Hitler reacted to the invasion of Sicily by transferring armies to Italy to guard against an Allied invasion of the mainland. So let me see...Hitler turned away from a huge, potentially decisive battle he was poised to win in a week or two against his fiercest, most hated adversary in his self-proclaimed racial war of annihilation, to guard against a possible invasion someplace, well, maybe sometime a few months from now, maybe, by somebody else.
Berlin? By now the guy's on fumes, and he just kinda sorta mentions that yeah, the Russians were in Berlin, and Hitler married Eva and killed his dog, and anybody who doesn't see it his way is a Stalinist toolbag.
If Mosier is to be believed, then the only thing standing between the Germans constructing a beer garden in Red Square and the Wehrmacht touring the cultural sights of Leningrad was some gosh darned bad luck. After all, those Russians, they lost X millions and the Germans only lost Y millions, and that awful Stalin just kept pouring troops into the bloody maw until he reached the Brandenburg Gate without regard for their lives. Yes. Yes, he did. That's how the Russians won the war. Shading, interpretation, reinterpretation - at the end of the war the Germans surrendered. Even Mosier can't dispute that.
For a historian, he has a hell of a lot of trouble with facts.
I think Fletcher has done a commendable piece of work here. She's researched, she's interviewed, she's thought it out and she writes convincingly. She effortlessly bats down the "AA is the Only Way" crowd with - hang on - scientific evidence. Not only doesn't AA fail a lot of people as "treatment", it probably shouldn't even be the first line. If addiction is a disease, then it deserves to be treated medically, like TB, not spiritually. It's common sense that nobody tells a diabetic to accept powerlessness over their blood sugar because that is not going to help anybody conquer it successfully, and when it fails, tell them it's because they didn't really want to get better. The treatment protocol can't be "the leeches aren't working! Get more leeches!".
What keeps me from giving the book 5 stars is that from time to time Fletcher switches from an objective and insightful discussion of treatment to advice on choosing and paying for rehab that sounds more like a naive and breezy "how-to". Some of it is silly: consult your insurance company about in-network facilities, and keep notes about everyone you speak to, and get them to guarantee in writing what they will pay for your treatment. Has she never been on hold with Blue Cross? "Certification is no guarantee of payment. Payment decisions are made at the time claims are reviewed", or thereabouts. You should also call the rehab and ask what approaches they take, such as whether they will prescribe medications to assist in detox or maintenance; ask about the professional qualifications of their staff including their education, training and experience; whether there is individual therapy in addition to group; whether there will be a refund of advance payment if someone drops out or is kicked out; and on and on and on. Compare to find the best fit for you.
The problem is, addiction treatment is not a consumer good being marketed to and purchased by consumers. These are sick people who need health care. They aren't buying a car. They can't comparison shop. Anyone in need of rehab will not be in any shape to be spending hours on the phone with the insurance company, which is the one that will drive the bus in the end no matter how much work you do since your only choice will likely be what they'll pay for. Likewise hours on the phone with rehabs, which will likely be unwilling to disclose a lot of information on staff and treatment approaches, on the theory that if you still think you have any say in your treatment and can pick and choose based on what you think will work best for you, you aren't really ready for it anyway. Sure, Mom & Dad could make the calls for you, should you still have them, and should you all still be speaking. That's no answer to someone who is on their own.
A very good piece of work, overall, but buying into the myth of the "healthcare consumer", which this book pretty much does whether or not it uses the phrase, mars it.
I'm not a big mystery suspense reader, but I've been on a Greg Iles binge in the past five weeks. "Sleep No More" is my sixth in a row. I really love the books. They're all set in the same universe, in Mississippi or New Orleans, and you start to feel like if you woke up tomorrow morning in Natchez, you'd head right over to the Trace, and if you were in New Orleans, no problem locating the FBI field office on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Some minor characters in one book become major characters in another, or vice versa. They are tightly, even dizzingly plotted, even if sometimes someone is about to do something so eyepoppingly stupid you want to yell out "hey! Little blonde cheerleader! Do NOT open that back door to see if someone's really out there! For God's sake, you're babysitting!!!" You can forgive that, though. Shakespeare let Julius Caesar leave the house and head over to the Roman Senate on the Ides of March, and we know how THAT turned out.
Then comes Sleep No More.
John Waters - the name made me giggle, which wasn't an auspicious start - is a happily married oil man with a seven year old daughter and an antebellum mansion. He spots a gorgeous woman at his daughter's soccer game, so gorgeous she just about drops him in his tracks, and next you know she's hunting him down like he's a six point buck. Once everybody has their clothes off she tells him that she's actually his old college girlfriend. Yes, that would be the college girlfriend who tried to kill him, OK tried to kill him twice. Problem is, old girlfriend herself has been dead for the past ten years, and the heavenly body she is supposed to be inhabiting now is ten years younger than hers would have been. Things Happen. As people tend to end up doing when Things Happen, Waters finds himself telling the whole story to a lawyer, who advises him to ignore the supernatural, Fringe-like explanation and find the logical one. And you keep listening, waiting for it to unfold, confident that a skillful, solid storyteller like Iles who has steered you around so many corners isn't going to leave you in this narrative ditch he's driven you into. Alas, even the words "logical explanation" never turn up again. I actually trudged through to the end hoping it would all be explained, all the way up until I got to "Audible hopes you have enjoyed". It just never happened.
And then, as others have noted, there are the sex scenes. Now, I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, and they're the best written parts of the book - but I started wanting to fast forward through them. They are actually critical to the story, but they just go on and on and on and then they keep happening over and over again. It becomes as dull as a character who keeps recounting trips to the supermarket, describing the size and the color of every item they put into their shopping cart at the supermarket, and in what order, and the problem is, they're going shopping every single day.
And now the absolute worst: the narrator. He is fine with male voices, but the adult women have the same silly falsetto voice as the seven year old girl. They all come off as mindless, pouting little brats.
Now you! Put that book credit right back in your wallet and run, run away!
As to form: the performance of the book is awful. The narrator pauses at the end of each sentence for so long that I sped up the replay to 1.5x, which raised his voice to an amusing pitch but at least kept the story moving. Now as to substance...
You know it's may be a tough go when an author spends an entire foreward thanking his research assistants...every last one of them in all countries...his family...his dogs (OK no dogs). It lasted for probably 15 minutes, based on how close I'd gotten to work while listening. This is when you say to yourself, strap me in, it's gonna get wild.
The book itself is just dry. Numbers, numbers, numbers. 1933, 4 denunciations, 2 by strangers; 1935, 3 denunciations, one by a stranger, and on and on (and on). The book becomes very hard to follow. It's a shame. Johnson has done a lot of meticulous, focused research, primarily in Gestapo records for a prominent city, a smaller city, a small town. He's obviously spent years at it, done commendable scholarship and compiled quite a record. You can't really quarrel with the structure of his work. It's thematic. The problem for me is that it's driven not by stories but by tables, which are read out loud periodically. It reminds me of a course I had in grad school where the professor kept trying to tell the story of the Civil War by reciting statistics about the production of pig iron. Historians who recite numbers are only doing part of the job. They're why people hate history. A historian has to tell a story. These were real people with real lives. They drank coffee, they rode the S-bahn, they didn't want to go in on Mondays, they were terrified someone would hear them listening to the BBC. Too much of this book - for me - was letting the numbers speak. The individual stories told were not of much interest.
The exception is at the end of the first part, where he discusses clergy who were persecuted by the Nazis. He glosses over Niemoller and Bonhoeffer, which is refreshing, to tell the story of a pair of Catholic priests. One rebels by attacking the Nazis from the pulpit, and stands up to the Gestapo in such an admirable way it seems even the Nazis had to recognize it. He gets transferred by the Church, and when he keeps talking, the Church packs him off to Chile, and when he still keeps talking, they send him off to some place so far out there in Chile that I'm not sure they've got running water and a printing press so he can keep making trouble. A hero.
The second priest is turned in by the Church for molesting young boys, in a high profile case. The story is told in gut turning detail, which is in the records because the Gestapo were thorough and painstaking with any investigation involving sex, such as between Jewish men and German women. He receives what Johnson describes as "comparatively light sentences" despite incontrovertible evidence from several victims, and eventually ends up in Dachau. Johnson questions whether the Church "did all it could to ease [the] plight" of both men. In the case of Father G, the sex offender, when his behavior is uncovered the Church first sends him off to another post. The second time they notify the Gestapo. Johnson asks, "could [the Church] not have found another solution?" Are you kidding? Noting the priest's eventual death in Dachau, Johnson notes, "after six years of misery, his ordeal was over."
This guy was a child molester. "Misery" and "ordeal"??? After molesting children? I'm not suggesting in the remote that Johnson doesn't think the guy is a despicable pervert, but when did German history suddenly run out of sympathetic victims with heartbreaking stories, so that a historian had to rely on this criminal? He wasn't a consenting adult doing with other consenting adults what is nobody's business but theirs. Hate to wear out the phrase, he was a child molester. Father G is not a case of what Johnson labels persecution, but prosecution - the first example I've ever heard of where Nazi justice was actually justice.
Note I'm only reviewing part one - I'm not bothering with part two.
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.
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