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Publisher's Summary

If history really belongs to the victor, what happens when there's more than one side declaring victory? That's the conundrum Norman Davies unravels in his groundbreaking book No Simple Victory. Far from being a revisionist history, No Simple Victory instead offers a clear-eyed reappraisal, untangling and setting right the disparate claims made by America, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union in order to get at the startling truth.

In detailing the clash of political philosophies that drove the war's savage engine, Davies also examines how factors as diverse as technology, economics, and morale played dynamic roles in shaping battles, along with the unsung yet vital help of Poland, Greece, and Ukraine (which suffered the highest number of casualties). And while the Allies resorted to bombing enemy civilians to sow terror, the most damning condemnation is saved for the Soviet Union, whose glossed-over war crimes against British soldiers and its own people prove that Communism and Nazism were two sides of the same brutal coin.

No Simple Victory is an unparalleled work that will fascinate not only history buffs but anyone who is interested in discovering the reality behind what Davies refers to as "the frozen perspective of the winners' history".

©2007 Norman Davies; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Enormously readable....This will explode all your ideas about the 'Good War.' " (Details)
"This is a self-consciously contrary book, cutting against the grain of much self-congratulatory Western writing since 1945." (London Sunday Telegraph)
"Davies' topical approach judiciously surveys the military, economic and political aspects of the war....His interpretations rest on solid scholarly work." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Jeremy
  • NEW YORK, NY, United States
  • 07-14-13

Eyes wide open

No simple war is an impressive about the history of World War II which, uniquely, manages to simultaneously pay homage to the courage of the soldiers fighting on the wrong side of the moral line and document the many darker acts committed by these same soldiers.

Although the book is rich in detail and goes through all the parties involved in the conflict, there are two special places were the study deserves special praise and goes far beyond what other books in the area have done.

- The book takes special attention to describe the unknown German heroes of the war. These are the soldiers that won battles on two fronts, against sometimes impossible odds. Many of these soldiers had nothing to do with what was happening on the political front and were (soon enough) fighting, and dying, for Germany's survival. Few books document that well the German ordeal on the Eastern front, in particular, how this was all very different from a well-equipped and organized army.

- Second, the book is one of the few to be honest about a fact of the war, that it was mainly fought, and won, by the Russians with the allied mostly creeping in as a sideshow. But this was not easy and while the Russians numerous, it boggles the mind to imagine how they could transform from a second-class world power to one that could push back a major industrial power. According to the narrative, this was accomplished mainly by the Russian grit never to give up and fight until death.

No simple victory is marketed as a tale of the war atrocities committed by the victors but this is just a part of the story. More than this, the book tries to explain how we came to this by defining what "total war" really is. It is also a cautionary tale about a kind of war that might have occurred only once in the history of humanity.

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  • donald
  • MIRA LOMA, CA, United States
  • 05-12-13

Add this to your collection, thank me later.

Where does No Simple Victory rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

somewhere between jawdropping and Oh...how 'bout that.

What was one of the most memorable moments of No Simple Victory?

When the good guys win.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

not sure but he is excellent

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

A normal persons brain would explode if you listened to it all at one time. Let me know when you decide your going to likely listen to it a second time.

Any additional comments?

history library must have.

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  • R. Sippel
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 02-22-13

No words can describe the inhumanity

My dad was in WW 2 and would NEVER talk about it, after listening to this book I know why. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around what took place. The numbers quoted in this book are staggering! The torture incomprehensible!
I keep thinking about the protesters complaining about the U.S. using water boarding!!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

all encompassing fascinating details

What made the experience of listening to No Simple Victory the most enjoyable?

clear animated voice

What was one of the most memorable moments of No Simple Victory?

the authors discussion of historiography and its western bias

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

yes i want to read all of the authors books

Any additional comments?

i want to meet and talk with mr davies

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  • John
  • REDWOOD CITY, CA, United States
  • 11-20-11

Fantastic

this is a very refreshing take on war in general and of course world war two specifically.

however when during the battle of Stalingrad, "the temperature had dropped to twenty degrees Celsius" I think it's missing some minuses.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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More of a Reference Book

I made it all the way through the book and learned a great deal I never knew or suspected about World War II so I'm glad I did. Despite the always-fantastic narration by Simon Vance, the book reads more like an encyclopedia or a reference book than a novel or even a historical book. If you are a true WWII buff I would think you would the hardcopy of this book so you can thumb through it and look up the topics that interest you. If you are more of a casual historian (as I am) it can be tough to make it through but it's definitely worthwhile. Note that the author minimizes the U.S.'s role in the war and role in bringing the war to victory. His position is well-substantiated but some Americans might find that viewpoint off-putting or even painful.

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Stalin as the "star" of WW2

Norman Davies has a point and you won't be able to escape it in this book. Stalin was as bad as Hitler. Maybe genocide is worse than just plain old killing but the body counts are similar. Davies isn't denying anything about the holocaust but he wants us to know about the gulags too. And while he is telling you about how bad Stalin is he also wants us to know that the Allies could not have won the war without the USSR.
But why should you read yet another history of WWII? First, the breakup of the USSR led to the release of many documents from the Stalin era. Second, in the U.S. we get a very filtered, even biased view of the war. Third, Simon Vance's energy as the narrator never falters through the 20 hours of narration.
The author says D-Day wasn't among the top 10 battles of the war. The battle of Kursk was the most decisive. He talks about issues that are rarely mentioned: the effect of the war on civilian women, the Warsaw uprising, the impact on children, the terrible price a community paid if one side or the other decided that it would hold the line there.
Is this book for you? Do you know about the Katyn massacre? If not, google it and see if you aren't interested in learning more. Are you someone who reads history with a critical/skeptical eye? Norman Davies is your guy.
I normally deduct one star for a non-fiction book that is not read by the author himself, unless he/she has some really good excuse like being dead. But I found this book from an Audible listing of narrator choices so I can't deduct this time. At least Simon Vance has the same accent as Davies (I'm presuming).
The reason I can't give this a 5 star review is that it is a bit hard to follow as an audible book. This material is not presented in chronological order, more like a loop that goes back again and again for more detail or another viewpoint. Also, this is not just a history book, far from it. It is also a critique of how history is written and that is probably this book's strongest point.

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  • Roger
  • SAINT PETERS, MO, United States
  • 10-01-11

Interesting thesis, but not so interesting book

I enjoy books on history, but this one left me checking how much time was left. Having grown up during the cold war, it was interesting to hear the ideas people had of Russia during WWII. Some of the raw figures from the East vs. West were staggering. But most of what was interesting could have been said in about a third of the space. The rest felt like filler and might be better as a reference book. This was like trying to listen to a text book.

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  • Matthew
  • Decatur, TX, United States
  • 09-29-11

Not your average coverage of WWII

This is not a history of the war in Europe. It is a study of multiple facets of WWII. The author attempts to take a very broad overview when looking at causes, factors, and fallout of the war. Very little attention is given to discussing battles.

One major theme is that what you know about the war is heavily biased and incomplete. It is asserted that Russia is greatly undervalued in its contribution to the war, and also overlooked when it comes to atrocities. The author goes out of his way to shed light on the evils of Stalin's regime. The case he makes is compelling.



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  • Daniel
  • Chattanooga, TN, United States
  • 10-12-10

The Crime Explained

Now here is what Americans need to understand about our glorious Victory of 1945. The details in this history of the 1940s war are necessary knowledge. Our entire National WW2 Myth needs to be refreshed with some deeper understanding. What do you think when you see FDR and Churchill and Stalin all hanging out together smiling and laughing? What if it was Hitler they were hanging out with in all of those pictures from those big Conferences? Would it make a difference if it was Stalin or Hitler? Why? Did the U.S. fight the right war? Should the U.S. have been involved with any of these people to begin with? Just why the hell did England declare war on Germany again? And then look who they let wind up with Poland when it was all over! Would I be wrong to advocate that the U.S. should have made peace with Germany and team up to bring all of its force to bear on the USSR? Why? Whats the difference? Do body counts matter? - because let me tell you WW2 was no simple victory - was it victory? What did 1945 do to this country? Was the U.S. really the ally of the world's bloodiest mass murderer?

1 of 2 people found this review helpful