The individuals featured in this audiobook are not historians or scholars. They are ordinary men and women who experienced - and helped to win - the most devastating war in history, in which between 50 and 60 million lives were lost.
Focusing on the citizens of four towns - Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Mobile, Alabama - The War follows more than 40 people from 1941 to 1945. Woven largely from their memories, the compelling, unflinching narrative unfolds month by bloody month, with the outcome always in doubt. The iconic events are here, but we also move among prisoners of war, defense workers, and schoolchildren, and families who struggled simply to stay together.
An intimate, profoundly affecting chronicle of the war that shaped our world, The War captures the American experience of World War II through the words and deeds, thoughts and feelings of those who made history on the battlefields and on the home front.
I looked forward to this book because 1) of the quality of Ken Burns' work on past topics of American History and 2) I feel WWII, more than any other conflict the United States was a part of, tells us how we came to be what we are as a nation and what we became afterwards. The narrative did not disappoint. It was well written and frank, breaking many of the myths that we learned in school about how we just rose up and saved the world after we were attacked by Imperial Japan in 1941. I listened to the book before I saw the PBS series and you can see the close relationship between the two.
So, why only three stars? Well, one star was removed simply because this is an abridged version and it doesn't appear that an unabridged version exists. Call me rigid, but NO abridged version can substitute for reading the authors' full intent. Abridgment means compromise.
The second star was removed because, frankly, although Ken Burns may produce extraordinary documentaries, he is a TERRIBLE reader. Rather than reading in phrases and pausing after a thought is complete, he pauses after every two or three words, whether it makes sense to do so or not: "The boy (pause) went to (pause) the store." The entire reading is riddled with this kind of phraseology and it becomes annoying after awhile because it often forces you to go back and repeat what he has said in order make sense of it. Ugh!
18 of 21 people found this review helpful
Without reservations, I recommend this book to all the citizens of this great nation. I sincerely believe that after completing this book you will have a new respect for the sacrifices our soldiers and their families made during the World War II.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
This is one very good companion piece to the PBS documentary. Ken Burns (the film's co-director and this audiobook's primary narrator) is not an actor, and neither were any of the people whose words and stories he tells here. His narration is direct and quietly impassioned, which makes it all the more forceful.
Burns and co-director/producer Lynn Novick let it be known from the beginning that this story would not be about "..the traditional top-down heroes we are usually presented with - the generals, the presidents and statesmen, the prime ministers and field marshals who tend to recede from our understanding just as they ascend to the pantheon of Great Men. These are folks you might have had Thanksgiving with." To be sure, those seeking "exciting" battles or military tactics will not be disappointed since they are often described in detail, almost exclusively through first-hand accounts. Their stories are more often than not quite harrowing, related honestly, free of hubris and frequently with sincere regret. But it is also a celebration of the human spirit, what it can rally to, endure and ultimately overcome.
The generation these people came from was a far cry from what it is today and they are leaving us. It would be a terrible shame to forget what our parents, grandparents and great grandparents sacrificed in this war which claimed the lives of nearly 60 million people. Those who prefer the more traditional WWII works shouldn't shy away from this if they truly wish to gain a better understanding of what it was like not only to fight in this war but to remain behind. It's really quite an accomplishment that I can't recommend highly enough.
Do yourself a favor and experience something invaluable.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Messers Ward and Burns have done it again: a thought-provoking perspective on a key part of American history.
Ken Burns delivers a superb performance telling the story, with Tom Hanks, Josh Lucas and Rebecca Holtz voicing some of the key characters portrayed in the book/series.
A must-listen for history buffs and anyone who wants to know what real people experienced as a result of decisions made by the generals and civilian leaders.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
If you want to save yourself the 20+ hours in front of the TV watching to PBS series by the same name, but still get the same horrific feelings of the detailed accounts of the second world war, this is the audible pick for you.
My thoughts about WWII and many of my outlooks on today's military have changed since this book. It should be mandatory in any US history class.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Extracts of this book should become required reading in High School so the future generations NEVER forget! The reading by Burns is INCREDIBLE. He pulls you in and the conclusion.... appropriately chilling! Would very much recommend!
I liked this book, the documentary even the audio book. It brought out some personal emotions inside of me. Having me near to tears. Who would I recommend this book for? To those who would more then be interested in looking up the history of world war 2. I myself being one of those people.
What made the experience of listening to The War the most enjoyable?
The stories brought to light in this book are amazing. It really puts you in place of the heroes that battled in Germany and the pacific.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The War?
Not to give anything away, but hearing the fate of the soldiers whose letters home they read unfiltered is something I won't forget anytime soon.
What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
As they read certain letters or journal entries, other voice actors come in, including Tom Hanks. This really gave personality to the story and made it very enjoyable.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes, but had to spread it out over several days.
There seems to be too many facts to remember. The personal side of WW II resonates a lot better than the facts and figures usually presented. ...though the facts and figures are astounding and makes the gulf war facts and figures look like a drop in the bucket. After the audiobook, I want to watch the series.
This is a maudlin account of war events and its american participants with little new insights or perspective. Post WWII Europeans and especially Americans have no knowledge of the terror and indescribable cynicism of that time - happily. This account by Burns is merely emotional without supplying the perspective that might make it relevant for our time.
3 of 7 people found this review helpful