The Second World War: A Complete History

Narrated by: Bernard Mayes
Length: 43 hrs and 2 mins
Categories: History, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (120 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill, offers a complete history of World War II.

It began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. By the time it came to an end on V-Day - August 14, 1945 - it had involved every major power, and had become global in its reach. In the final accounting, it would turn out to be - in both human terms and material resources - the costliest war in history, taking the lives of forty-six million people.

With unparalleled scholarship and breadth of vision, Gilbert weaves together all of the war’s aspects - the political, the military, the diplomatic, and, not least, the civilian - charting an almost day-by-day account of the terrible progress of the war’s juggernaut of death and destruction. Through it all, his aim is to show what happened, not from the point of view of any one of the warring nations but from a global perspective. The result is the first total history of this global war, a work that is both a treasure trove of information and a gripping dramatic narrative.

©1989 Martin Gilbert (P)2000 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Brings the losses and the horrors of the war home to us more urgently than a more accented account might do.” ( New York Times Book Review)
“Mr. Gilbert brings the strongest possible credentials to his history of World War II, and the result is a magisterial work that shows how the greatest war ever fought reached into every corner of the globe.” ( New York Times)
“In his transmission of the horror of the war, Martin Gilbert has achieved something no historian but he could. There is indeed a relentless force about chronology when it is used as a tool by a historian of the status of Martin Gilbert.” ( Sunday Telegraph)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Should be required reading for all students.

The most complete review of the history of WWII I have read. Students of world history need to familiarize themselves with this book. Even though I have traveled to Germany several times and in fact served in the Army for 3 years in peacetime Germany, I was unaware of the extent of suffering and cruelty perpetrated by the Nazi regime. I sincerely hope the German people are not allowed to forget the devastation caused by the Nazi's. Nor allowed to excuse themselves as unaware participants of those barbarians.

Bill Hemby




5 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Catalog of Atrocities, Ignores the Japanese

After a while the book became a catalog of Nazi atrocities in Poland and the eastern front. While it is critical that they be documented, it became very difficult to listen to lists of towns followed by numbers of men, women and children murdered. These details could have been cut back and far more focus placed on the Pacific theater. For example, there was no mention of Japan's pre-1941 invasion of China and the Japanese atrocities there (e.g., I don't recall hearing about the rape of Nanking). This was a very Euro-centric account of the war. Lastly, the sound quality was terrible. It sound like it was recorded on cassette tapes which were digitized.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing. Save your time.

Mostly a recitation of names and dates with only limited analyses and insights into the underlying causes and overall strategies. Unfortunate from an author whose other works have include classics with brilliant analyses and insights.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

audio bad

couldn't finish the book. After a few chapters, the treble on the tone of the voice was so difficult to listen to I had to return the book. The Story seems interesting, but I didn't get a chance to listen through.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

was expecting something different

Would you try another book from Martin Gilbert and/or Bernard Mayes?

probably not

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Second World War?

too many to recall

What does Bernard Mayes bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

nothing

What character would you cut from The Second World War?

all were necessary

Any additional comments?

very disappointed....90% of the book was concentrated on europe and the nazi...if memory serves me correctly...there was a lot of "war" in the pacific....but the author writes about the pacific in almost an afterthought.....i'm sorry about the horrible happenings in europe...especially toward the jews and the final solution......but just as much horror was in the pacific......too bad the writer chose to ignore that

10 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Not really history & it doesn't really cover WWII

This is basically a series of human interest stories about the victims of the war in Europe. There is nothing about the causes of the war and almost nothing about the leaders or the generals or the strategy and tactics of the battles. There is very little about the war in the Pacific. In a sense, this is an extremely modern book because it focuses almost exclusively on the victims. (Also, the focus is on the victims of the Nazis; very little about the victims of the Russians.) There are a lot of human interest stories about the horrors of war and the senseless deaths of non-combatants in Europe. If that is what you are looking for then this is the book for you.

I object to the way this book is titled and marketed as a WWII history. I wanted a conventional one volume history of WWII. I already knew that the Nazis were bad and that innocent people died during this war. I am going to return this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book, a little dry performance

Loved the book. Audio quality isn't up to snuff, which gives the dry performance no help.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Thorough and disturbing

I guess war should be disturbing and the very thorough chronicle of what felt like a week by week review of the war weighed down on me heavily. The story IS horrific but one we must remember so I read on. I recommend this to anyone who does not recognize the solemnity and gravity of war (and if you haven’t served in war, that means you). I have even greater respect for my Grandfather and those who served and the ~ 48,000,000 who died. What a loss for this world!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

High level chronology, poor audio

This is not a battle book. It is almost a newsreel presentation, close to daily and chronological but from the entire world at war. Obviously much of what is presented was not public knowledge at the time, but if a news reader could have had access to the information in real time, this is kind of what they would have experienced. I listen to and read a lot of detailed battle books, this gives the framework within which to place them. It helps appreciate what was going on in the various theatres contemporaneously. There are details, but it is mostly high level. I like that it is taken from records, correspondence, diaries, etc. I read one review that got tired of the daily documentation of the murders of Jews, Poles and others in occupied Europe, but I think that is precisely the point. After 43 hours of listening, you are down and you cannot forget the monstrosities committed.

The narrator Bernard Mayes has a great voice, perfect for this grave subject. The tone of the audio, especially early in the recording sounded like it was done in an echo chamber. I had to turn the sound down low to moderate the harshly unpleasant, sharp, almost metallic tone of his voice. I hesitate to mention something personal, but Mr Mayes has a strange speech tic. He cannot pronounce certain sounds or combinations of sounds reliably. It took me a while to pin down what was happening. The first few times I thought the audio had cut out, but then it became a pattern. It shows up mostly on numbers like "fifteenth" or "fifty", often on other numbers ending in -teenth. Occasionally it occurs on non-number words with a similar sound, such as "teeth". It sounds like he swallows those sounds. It is noticeable on dates and numbers, say of troops or casualties. Once you notice this is it annoying and distracting. Sometimes it totally obscures a date or number that you wanted to know.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Priceless

The definitive repository of facts and figures pertaining to the second world war. The author presents these facts free of editorial comments.