From one of our finest military historians comes a monumental work that shows us at once the truly global reach of World War II and its deeply personal consequences.
World War II involved tens of millions of soldiers and cost sixty million lives—an average of twentyseven thousand a day. For 35 years, Max Hastings has researched and written about different aspects of the war. Now, for the first time, he gives us a magnificent, singlevolume history of the entire war.
Through his strikingly detailed stories of everyday people—of soldiers, sailors, and airmen; British housewives and Indian peasants; SS killers and the citizens of Leningrad, some of whom resorted to cannibalism during the two year siege; Japanese suicide pilots and American carrier crews—Hastings provides a singularly intimate portrait of the world at war. He simultaneously traces the major developments—Hitler’s refusal to retreat from the Soviet Union until it was too late, Stalin’s ruthlessness in using his greater population to wear down the German army, Churchill’s leadership in the dark days of 1940 and 1941, Roosevelt’s steady hand before and after the United States entered the war—and puts them in real human context.
Hastings also illuminates some of the darker and less explored regions under the war’s penumbra, including the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland, during which the Finns fiercely and surprisingly resisted Stalin’s invading Red Army, and the Bengal famine in 1943 and 1944, when at least one million people died in what turned out to be, in Nehru’s words, “the final epitaph of British rule” in India.
Remarkably informed and wide-ranging, Inferno is both elegantly written and cogently argued. Above all, it is a new and essential understanding of one of the greatest and bloodiest events of the 20th century.
©2011 Max Hastings (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“This is the book [Hastings] was born to write: a work of staggering scope and erudition, narrated with supreme fluency and insight, it is unquestionably the best single-volume history of the war ever written.” (Sunday Times)
This is one of many books that I have read about The Second World War over the years. I have read enough books about this period that I almost did not buy this one, but I found Mr Hastings' approach very fresh and very different. Instead of following battles through army and division movements Mr Hastings decided to follow the flow of the war through individual diaries and letters. This approach made the period much more personal for me and taught me, as no other book did, what the war was like for those who had to live through it. I was and have remained impressed by his presentation of the war.
I also appreciated his global prospective. Here I read about the battles in the lesser battlefields of the war - Burma, India, China and so on. Previously I had to read books such as Stillwell And The American Experience In China to find much about what was going on outside of Europe and The Pacific.
Balanced against the positives I feel the need to mention some negatives.
1) Mr Hastings keeps referring to all information gained by breaking the enemy codes as Ultra in spite of the fact that the effort to break and utilize the German codes was known as Ultra and the effort to break and utilize the Japanese codes was known as Magic. Thus Mr Hastings refers to the information that helped the US win the Battle Of Midway as Ultra even though this information came directly from Magic. Similarly all such pacific intercepts are incorrectly referred to as Ultra. Perhaps this is a British term, but it is annoying for anyone who knows the history of the Magic intercepts.
2) There is at least one reference to action taking place in 1952 instead of 1942. I do not have the print version of this book so I am not sure if the print is wrong or the reader just made a mistake. 1952, of course, was 7 years after the end of the war.
3) There is one passage in the spoken book that refers to 40,000 US soldiers lost during a battle when, from the content, it is clear that it was German soldiers who were lost.
There are a couple of other items of this sort. But the book is so well done and the diary and letters so revealing of what was happening, that it was easy to overlook them in rating this book. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this period of time and is not concerned with specific troop movements.
Max Hastings' ability to find first-person accounts and integrate them into his narrative has always been one of his outstanding talents, and in "Inferno," he has the chance to do this on a global scale. I listened to this immediately after Andrew Robert's "The Storm of War," and the two books are remarkably complementary: Roberts provides a better-organized narrative, while Hastings provides countless memorable snapshots of the human cost of the war. Hastings does not skimp on covering the full range of events and theatres, and manages to include dozens of lesser-known aspects, such as the siege of Budapest in 1944 and the magnitude of Japanese war crimes in China. Ralph Cosham's narration has a certain hesitant quality that took a little getting used to, but in the end, it seemed perfect for the text. I certainly hope that Audible will acquire Hastings' other works, such as "Overlord," "Armageddon," and "Retribution."
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
This book masterfully uses real diaries and letters from people that actually LIVED through WWII, to convey much of its events. It keeps a good pace throughout, and is quite entertaining; especially for how dry this subject matter usually can be. Hastings uses the real voices from the past at the perfect time, every time, to accentuate how the larger events were affecting the civilians and soldiers. Once you start getting lulled to sleep by details (i.e. casualty figures), he wakes you up with something emotionally jarring; like a letter from a woman that lost all four of her children in a battle.
If you have a love of WWII history, add this to your library. If you're looking for a detailed, in-depth overview of the tactics and battles of the war, this may not be your book. It is much more focused on the "human" aspect of the war, which was a breath of fresh air.
Narrator is very good. Like the guys that narrate those old WWII documentaries on the History Channel.
This is the most powerful and compelling book on WWII on a personal level that I have ever read / listen too second only to Diary of Anne Frank. The author Max Hastings does a tremendous job of interweaving the overall events of WWII and the lives of the people it touched. Both German and Japanese theaters are discussed. It is chilling how the author reads letters and diaries of people caught up in the events of day just to conclude that the character dies a couple days later. True stories of parents doing all they can to save their children tears emotionally at your heart.
The reader must understand that this book is about the human spirit, both good and evil, and is not another historical thesis on the war.
I had no problems listening to the narrator. He did a wonderful job
Buy this audiobook and a box of tissues
Yes. Though, long, a fascinating new history of WWII.
The individual histories Hastings has put together to complete this book.
stilted, badly edited
Hell Comes To Earth
I found "Inferno" to be one of the most complete overall views of World War II. While other books of this type tend to drift off into one specific area of the Second World War, such as Andrew Roberts' solid "The Storm of War" being more about the British effort in Europe than the whole of World War II, Hastings delves in good detail into just about every aspect of World War II. And that detail is well distributed into all the major theaters: Europe, Scandinavia, the Pacific, the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, China, Burma, Africa and the Middle East to name a few.
Hastings touches on not just the obvious things, like battles and politics, but also the areas most people don't normally consider. That includes such topics as the participants' various home fronts and the colonial aspects (especially in regards to Great Britain). Hastings is keen to turn a just as critical eye on the Allies and he does the Axis. The horrors of war are definitely brought forward, regardless of the perpetrator.
This is a highly recommended book, even for those well versed in the subject of the Second World War.
The audio edition of this book allowed be to stick with an intensely detailed and lengthy reading that I may have put aside.
Winston Churchill is always my favorite character.
I was "awed" by the individual stories as the war was presented from the view of those impacted most by it.
I chose this reading to bridge the gap between "The Last Lion" Vol II and the yet to be published Vol III. It deserves much more than the role of a "filler" and is clearly a "stand alone" reading in its own right.
I lived through WWII, and have read most of what's been published about it! From Churchill's memoirs through Eisenhower's crusade....and many more. But Max Hastings has compiled a complete compendium of data on the war....with many insights into the interpersonal relationships that escaped earlier accounts of the action.
A narrative of the war providing excellent analysis and perspective, and with dramatic insertions from letters written contemporaneously by those impacted. Very moving.
At the very highest level
When I bought this book, I wondered what more there was to say on the subject but because it was Max Hastings I went along with it anyway. Now I've finished it I realise that Hastings describes these same events from a different perspective and through a series of startlingly personal viewpoints on behalf of the protagonists and victims, he adds a sense of immediacy and involvement that can be lacking from some military histories. He also relates aspects of these stories that I hadn't heard before - the ugly truth comes out again and again and some of the heroes are perhaps not as heroic as I'd been led to believe............. Overall a fascinating book on this vast subject.
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