The civil war that tore Spain apart between 1936 and 1939 and attracted liberals and socialists from across the world to support the cause against Franco was one of the most hard-fought and bitterest conflicts of the 20th century: a war of atrocities and political genocide and a military testing ground before WWII for the Russians, Italians and Germans, whose Condor Legion so notoriously destroyed Guernica.
Antony Beevor's account narrates the origins of the Civil War and its violent and dramatic course from the coup d'etat in July 1936 through the savage fighting of the next three years which ended in catastrophic defeat for the Republicans in 1939. And he succeeds especially well in unravelling the complex political and regional forces that played such an important part in the origins and history of the war.
©2006 Antony Beevor (P)2011 Orion
Beevor is without doubt one of the world's best historians. His works on Stalingrad and Berlin have won him international kudos. This is the first of his books to make it on to Audible, despite several requests. The Spanish war comes to life and the inconceivable savagery, incompetence, neglect, slaughter, hatred and indifference which pervaded this tragic period are vividly painted. Sadly, although it is meticulously researched and brilliantly detailed, it fails as an audiobook. There are just too many names, the sequence of events is too convoluted to remember and eventually the listener loses the plot. Great narration.
I'm a great fan of audiobooks, and history ones in particular. However, this book would be best in the good old-fashioned dead tree format, because that gives you two things an audiobook doesn't: maps and an index.
Maps are vital if your geography of Spain is anything less than A-level standard, and mine isn't even up to basic tourist standard.
An index is very, very vital. I can sympathise with other reviewers who have talked about the barrage of names that hits you, particularly in the opening chapters. They can indeed get confusing. In, say, a history of World War 2 it's pretty easy to tell which side a certain name belongs to, but with a civil war, no such luck (unless the name is German or Russian, which in fairness many are). As such it's fairly easy to lose track of who's fighting on which side, which wouldn't happen if you could quickly flip to the index (which you can't do on a kindle, either, or at least not very easily).
Other preparations which would probably pay dividends would be to swot up on the Spanish name formats, as they aren't straightforward and don't always make sense to an anglophone ear; and also to be clear on Spanish pronunciation. Sean Barrett is to be congratulated on the excellence of his Spanish accent when names of people or places appear in the text, but I sometimes found myself wondering how a certain name would actually be spelt. Again, an argument that for me at least, this was in the wrong format.
Despite all this the book was a pleasant experience overall, and as my only real understanding of the Spanish Civil War before this came from "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and "Homage To Catalonia", it answered many questions. It can also be seen in many ways as a prequel to the Second World War, and for that reason forms a vital part of European history which deserves to be better understood.
Excellent and detailed book about the Spanish Civil War. Great narrator. Beevor goes into detail about the Civil War inside the Civil War, and Stalin's use and abuse of the Republican cause. A great book, very thorough, with historical, geographical, political and military angles well covered; yet it manages to stay at the level of human interaction and to be moving and reflective
I enjoyed this book. The narration is easy on the ear and pitched at the right tempo and tone for the subject matter.
My only criticism is that no mention is made of how Franco treated the Moroccan army or anyone who did not fit in with his "White Spanish" vision. I suppose it's technically after the war but zero mention is made when other aftermath aspects are.
Still enjoyed it though and recommend it if the subject title interests you.
I had just finished reading Antony Beevor's WW2 book which was fantastic and gave me a much greater understanding of WW2.
Unfortunately this book did not have the same effect on me. After finishing it I still have little idea of what caused the Civil war and the key events. There were just too many similar names and too many small skirmishes. I think someone with a little understanding of the civil war and the history of Spain would gain a lot more from this book.
A very good listen - very accessible to the layman. Seems to cover just about everything with just suffecient depth.
no real overview obtained. couldn't finish it.
not the book to read if you would like to get some idea of what went on but I surmise that it was pretty complex.
Covers a often overlooked conflict that had a massive impact on WW2 Beevors best book
it clearly told a history I knew vaguely without any of the particular details. It demanded attention
the way it clearly explained the story of Spain in the fascist era
Sean Barrett is an excellent performer. I like his style, diction and narrative manner. He is a pleasure to listen to
the continuing saga of Catalonia still has resonance today
a really enjoyable and informative history.. Antony Beevor has written some exceptional books. This is perhaps the best.
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