The Second World War lasted for 2,174 days, cost $1.5 trillion, and claimed the lives of more than 50 million people. What were the factors that affected the war's outcome? Why did the Axis lose? And could they, with a different strategy, have won?
Andrew Roberts' acclaimed new history has been hailed as the finest single-volume account of this epic conflict. From the western front to North Africa, from the Baltic to the Far East, he tells the story of the war - the grand strategy and the individual experience, the cruelty and the heroism - as never before.
In researching this magnificently vivid history, Roberts walked many of the key battlefields and wartimes sites in Russia, France, Italy, Germany, and the Far East, and drew on a number of never-before-published documents, such as a letter from Hitler's director of military operations explaining the reasoning behind the Fuhrer's order to halt the Panzers outside Dunkirk - a delay that enabled British forces to evacuate. Roberts illuminates the principal actors on both sides and analyzes how they reached critical decisions. He also presents the tales of many little-known individuals whose experiences form a panoply of the extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice, as well as the terrible depravity and cruelty, of the Second World War.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, The Storm of War gives a dramatic account of this momentous event and shows in remarkable detail why the war took the course it did.
©2011 Andrew Roberts (P)2011 Tantor
I have been reading about the Second World War for the last 50 years and so did not expect to find anything really new in this book. I bought it thinking that it would be good to have a single volume that covered both the European and Pacific theaters and with the thought that there might be something new and interesting in it. What I found was a book that was very interesting; not so much because of new material, but rather because the book centers on the "whys" of what happened and contained a great deal of "back story" about the time that is missing in other books (examples - the actions in North Africa before the German troops were deployed there, the importance of the spy operations on both sides, the actions in generally neglected threaters of the war such as Burma, the fact that the Germans had broken the British Naval codes and so on) as well as a good overview of the major actions of the war. Add to that the excellent narration by Christian Rodska, including his ability to make his voice sound exactly like many of the political figures of the time, and this is a hard book to top if you want something on World War 2.
There are some inaccuracies -
(a) a rise of 500 feet over a length of 1000 feet does NOT make a 45 degree hill. A simple check of the trig tables shows this to be about 27 degrees,
(b) a quote from Churchill (to his war cabinet) wrongly attributed to Hitler,
(c) a statement, with no supporting evidence, that Churchill invented the story of Lord Halifax almost being offered the premiership. This flies in the face of every other book about the period and thus requires some supporting evidence,
(d) aside from the Philippine Islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, very little detail about the Pacific war (with nothing about MacArthur's island hopping campaign). I assume this is because MacArthur's troops were mainly American.
as well as some other issues.
But, aside from these minor issues, this book is very interesting, contains a great deal of information about the war in North Africa, the Soviet Union and Western Europe as well as an interesting section on what could have happened if the German Generals had control over the war in the Soviet Union and Europe. I recommend it to anyone interested in a single volume overview of the Second World War.
I read a lot of WWII books and didn't think this would be anything special but I was pleasantly surprised. New facts I'd never heard, new twists on old facts. Yes, it's an overview history so it hits it's highlights lightly but it is a really good overview. If you want a one volume history of WWII this is as good as it gets. Narrator did a first rate job too.
Even though this is generally an overview it is comprehensive. With the level of detail provided...some of it from more recently released information...the narrative can't help but pull the reader into the stunning madness, via a mind boggling mountain of facts and figures that simply left me devastated. The primary angle of the book is British and at times is too much so. The narrator is excellent. Generally following the flow of the war each area of the world, service type, battles, leadership and so much more is examined and tied together in a digestable form that I have not read/heard before. I want to recommend it, and do, but be prepared to be appalled and perhaps depressed to learn of the vortex of madness of WWII. All of us living in the wake of this global event should listen and hopefully learn about what can happen beyond a tipping point.
This history is interesting as far as it goes, but the focus is heavily on Europe and the Nazis. The Pacific Theater is given such cursory attention that I found myself wondering if the scope of the book had changed during the writing. By the end, I felt as if I knew many of the Nazi generals intimately -- not something I necessarily wanted -- whereas the quirky Japanese leaders are almost entirely ignored.
Andrew Roberts justifiably dedicates long chapters to the Nazi - USSR conflict, the scope of which was apparently unappreciated for decades. But comparably historic battles in the Pacific are given mere paragraphs, and many fascinating cultural aspects of that conflict are not mentioned at all, even in passing.
I'm also sorry to say that the author's biases are readily apparent. He is not overtly anti-American, but subtly and consistently so. He never misses an opportunity to mention, for example, that American soldiers ran from battle on at least one occasion and also committed rape. Yet he provides no comparable information on other Allied troops, other than the Soviets.
I suspect his neglect of the Pacific is related to this bias. He does detail the conflict in Burma, which is edifying, as it has probably been largely overlooked in other WWII histories. But this simply allows Mr, Roberts to linger lovingly on marginally effective British jungle heroics while minimizing the American initiative on the high seas. He gives the Americans full credit for producing huge quantities of weapons, but he could hardly fail to do that.
The American soldier -- whose toughness was amply demonstrated, especially in the Pacific -- is not given much credit in this book. For a deeper appreciation, I recommend UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand.
Christian Rodska does a fine job of narration. He is a gifted mimic of Winston Churchill, and this is especially enjoyable. He is less successful with Roosevelt and other American accents.
This was an extremely well written and narrated book. The author did a great job in describing the various aspects of the war from the leaders (Churchill, Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt but not Mussolini), to the commanders (Mainstein, Guderian, Rommel, Patton, Montgomery, Brooke, Eisenhower, Rommel, Patton, Bradley and Clark but not MacArthur) to the various aspects of the war (the nuclear bombs, air power, sea power). The narration by Christain Rudska was excellent. I thought Mr. Rudska's ability to portray the actual voices of the characters was great. I learned a great deal about the war that I did not know listening to the book. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in acquiring a full knowledge of the Second World War
John S. I enjoy the audiobook experience. History, fiction and biography seem to be my favorites. Audiobooks are like friends. The stories do grow in the telling. The art of narration, the conscious act of storytelling is essential.
I purchased THE STORM OF WAR after reading a review of the book in the N.Y. Times. Author Andrew Roberts does provide some excellent new insights into the history of the epic struggle of the Second World War. The book is very well organized and follows the actual timeline of the war. Mr. Roberts' final conclusions are centered around the causes and consequences of the pivotal events of the war. They reflect much of the new scholarship on the most important event of the Twentieth Century. For the most part, Christian Rodska offers a clear and supportive narration. Unfortunately, as in a number of recent history audiobooks, Mr. Roberts seems compelled to enhance his narrative with 'characterizations' of the central players of the conflict - Churchill, Hitler, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Montgomery and actor George C. Scott - with an irritating frequency so the overall effect is somewhat like a Monty Python sketch. I remain baffled by this device. The drama of history is sufficiently present in the events and historical figures. Why not trust the power of good storytelling and the listener's imagination and leave the funny voices out of the process. Regardless, THE STORM OF WAR is a penetrating and knowlegeable listen for any student of World War II.
What I have read in assorted histories of the Second World War has almost always been from the American point of view. How refreshing to get a glimpse of the action from the other side of the Atlantic.
There is so much detail and so much information laid before the listener, I do not recommend Trying to listen to this straight through. Take a break every so often to let your ears and mind refresh themselves.
What a book! What an extraordinary narrative performance! The sheer human carnage and historical folly of WW II painstakingly, brilliantly detailed. Reading/Listening to books such as The Storm of War ought to be considered a civic duty.
I couldn't stop listening to this fascinating and lucid account. Roberts is a gifted storyteller with the knack of narrating complex events with clarity, enabling the listener to follow the battles without maps.
But this is so much more than a chronicle of battles. Roberts lards his tale with juicy details. We learn about the war's major personalities, Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, the famous generals on both sides and the various love/hate relationships. And there are reminiscences from ordinary soldiers to bring events alive.
We hear of the political and diplomatic machinations. The relative virtues of various arms, tanks, ships and planes, from both sides, are compared and the herculean efforts every participating nation made to design and manufacture arms, with unprecedented speed and volume, are described. We hear of the terrible V1 and V2 rockets, the Hiroshima bomb, the Dresden firestorms, and the author gives thoughtful consideration to the moral implications of these means of war.
He describes Hitler's "stand and die" (fight to the death) orders and the Russian policy of shooting any soldier who was captured or retreated.
And yes, some statistics are necessary to help us grasp the enormous scale of history's greatest tragedy. It does take a little extra effort to hear, rather than see, statistics, but those provided here always seem justified.
I especially enjoyed the author's carefully considered "what if's"... what if Hitler had waited until 1942 to start the war, as had been planned, when he would have had so many more U-boats, Panzers, etc? What if he had refrained from insanely attacking Russia, and focused only on western Europe? What if England didn't have the enigma codes? What if we hadn't sent 15 million boots to Stalin along with guns and tanks, long before sending soldiers? What if Stalin hadn't ignored the 80 intelligence reports naming the exact time and day of the Barbarossa attack? And what if Hitler hadn't fallen for the Allies feints to attack Calais, rather than Normandy? These and more are thoughtfully explored.
I also like the author's inclusion of book and film suggestions... most histories but some fiction, for further reading.
I wasn't a WW2 buff before I read this book, but I am now. Roberts made it come alive to me in so many ways. And this book is completely relevant to today's over-armed world.
Thinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy
It’s hard to imagine anyone writing anything new about the Second World War, but Roberts keeps his account lively with unfamiliar anecdotes of both warlords and common people. It is also full of telling reminders of episodes we would rather forget, such as this: “Vichy implemented anti-Jewish measures even before it was requested by Berlin, partly to keep the advantages of property confiscation.” Christian Rodska, whose voice sounds like that of a distinguished Oxford don, gives a bravura performance as narrator, with his flawless pronunciation of German and French names, and his spot-on recreation of Churchill. Highly recommended.
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