'Russian success has been somewhat aided by the strategy of Herr Hitler, of Corporal Hitler... Even military idiots find it difficult not to see some faults in his actions.'
-Winston Churchill (2 August 1944, in the wake of the complete destruction of the German Army Group Centre in Belorussia)
Here is one of the best-selling history titles of 2009. Examining the Second World War on every front, Andrew Roberts asks whether, with a different decision-making process and a different strategy, Hitler's Axis might even have won.
Were those German generals who blamed everything on Hitler after the war correct, or were they merely scapegoating their former Führer once he was safely beyond defending himself? In researching this uniquely vivid history of the Second World War, Roberts has walked many of the key battlefield and wartime sites of Russia, France, Italy, Germany, and the Far East.
The book is full of illuminating sidelights on the principle actors that bring their characters and the ways in which they reached decisions into fresh focus.
Andrew Roberts's Masters and Commanders was one of the most acclaimed, best-selling history books of 2008. His previous books include Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), which won the Wolfson History Prize and the James Stern Silver Pen Award for Non-Fiction, and Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership (2003), which coincided with a four-part BBC2 history series. He is one of Britain's most prominent journalists and broadcasters.
©2009 Andrew Roberts (P)2010 Audible
"His mastery of the huge variety of subjects is truly impressive and his ability to marshal these subjects into a single compelling narrative stunning." (Keith Lowe, Daily Telegraph)
"He presents stylish penmanship, gritty research and lucid reasoning, coupled with poignant and haunting detours into private lives ruined and shortened." (The Economist)
How refreshing to find a book, and especially a historical one, that does not deal in terms of Good vs Evil, Right vs Wrong, but instead sets out the known facts about key stages of the war and gathers viewpoints from all parties involved, dirty laundry included. (The ongoing cat-fights between Monty and Patton being an example)
I'm only half-way through this astounding book but am completely enthralled by it. I've read a number of books on WWII but none have such remarkable insight or depth, filled with little snippets of information that, I'm sure, only became available in much later years.
At over 20 hours listening, this is a book you will need to listen to more than once to ensure you've caught all the information it contains. The thing is, you are going to want to.
A thoroughly engaging book.
The writing style achieves that rare quality in non-fiction of imparting factual information while keeping the listener entertained. A part of this success is down to the reader who does a sterling job, including a decent stab at mimicking the main protagonists without it descending in to out and out parody.
Overall 5/5 stars.
This is a very good one volume history of WW2. The author strikes a nicely judged mixture of grand strategy and detail, and whilst it focuses far more on the European theatre than the war against Japan, the picuture he presents is pretty well balanced. He writes in a lively and striaghtforward style, and in the audiobook, he is very well served by Christian Rodska's narration - well paced, good variation in tone and he brings the quotes which are spread throughout the book nicely to life - it's a long book, but doesn't seem so. A minor problem is that, although the narrator does his best, some of the statistics which the author uses to support his arguments are difficult to absorb - you have to concentrate!
The final chapter on conclusions indulges in a the kind of what-iffery military historians are somewhat prone to but it is nonetheless quite interesting if a bit muddled in places.
I'm very happy to recommend this book with one caveat which has nothing to do with the book itself. Unless you are familiar with the geography and the history to some extent, you will find yourself wanting to look at a map! I got the book out of the library as well which solved the problem for me - and the maps are very good.
Although many books have been written about the second world war, this is a recent one written with the insight of new information from Bletchley Park, which guided many of the decisions of the Allies.
It also gives a view of the different theatres of the war and not just the western european events.
I wouldn't say that I am widely read on the subject but there were many battles and outcomes that I now have a new perspective on.
A good overview with enough in depth analysis to keep the armchair historian interested.
Born in Africa, worked for many years in the Far East and now living - and still working - in Western Australia.
Andrew Roberts has somehow managed to show the whole picture whilst not losing sight of all the little things that made-up this momentous time. I would strongly recommend his book to anyone with even a passing interest in WW2. By drawing on the works of a rich variety of sources and with the benefit of hindsight and obviously substantial and meticulous research, plus the ability to categorise varied elements into a logical format, he presents an entirely new slant on so many aspects of the war. Not long into my listening I bought the hardcopy as a companion volume. However, what really makes this audiobook a true standout is the reading by Christian Rodska, interspersed with the 'voices' of Hitler, Churchill, Patton, Monty, and just about everybody else from the SS Corporal to the British Colonel, the GI, the Diplomat, the Soldier, Sailor and Airman and the ordinary 'man in the street' which bring to this work a cast of thousands. This is what audiobooks are about. I am an avid listener of audiobooks over many years and this is one of the best examples of the 'craft' that I have been pleased to come across. Encore..!
A fully comprehensive and gripping account of the calamity in its entirity. The brutality led me to switch off at times. Completely anglocentric and one would have to wonder at the lowest ever death toll to the Dresden firestorm raid. Macnamara, (Curtis Lemays Speer)completely disagrees with the books conclusions regrding the burning, boiling and baking of japanese civilians...and he was directly responsible!. Nevertheless a massive, sprawling finely detailed canvass of a book...loved it!
This is the most entertaining account of the second world war I have read or heard. It contains enough information and analysis to interest armchair generals, but is entertainingly written, well structured and presents balanced arguments that will keep those without specialist interest hooked. Christian Rodska's narration is excellent, 'doing all the voices' and keeps the story moving at pace. In its unabridged form it also presents fantasic value, delivering hours of listening pleasure. In conclusion I can't recommend it enough.
This is an absolutely supurb book. I've read a great many books on WWII and I think this would be one of the best, if not 'the' best I've read. Not just historical facts rolled out one after another; this book is written in a thoroughly interesting and engaging manner. The narator is also absolutely brilliant.
I knew Andrew Roberts at University, so read this with interest, especially given his high reputation with other books. I had high hopes. I am sad to say I was sorely disappointed by this book. Some reviewers have criticised the narrator which I think is unfair; there are a lot of different players in this story from many different nations so some licence in accents is not just excusable but required.
The issue I have is that this is just a very ordinary account of WWII. I read accounts of the war like this as a boy in the 70s. Yes, it is well-written and a strong narrative, but it ignores so many great insights into the war that have come out in recent times, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union and the release of its archives. You have to be a geek to read David Glantz's illuminating but dense accounts of the war in Russia, but they are really important in understanding the true nature of WWII. You have to be a geek to read the various revisionist views about Britain's role in WWII that have come out in recent years; like David Edgerton. There are lots of new views about the alliance between Britain and the USA that are in no way reflected by this 1960's view of the "Special Relationship". The balance of the account on British action against relatively vast actions on the Eastern Front is redolent of those war histories I read as a boy in the 1970s. It gives no real sense of the war's real priorities.
This is a popular account of the war that should bring all of the key issues out in an accessible way. The point of a book like this is to synthesise all of the new research rather than re-writing a book that retreads accounts from 20-30 years ago. The suggested explanation of how the war was lost/won is a simple re-hash of tired and sometimes inaccurate narratives that have been trotted out for decades.
So I am sad to say I feel this is a waste of a great opportunity to write the definitive popular account of WWII. It tells the traditional story as well as many other accounts, but no better.
Andrew Roberts is an effective writer of popular history. The Storm of War does not disappoint. The endless profusion of books about WWII would seem to challenge the subtitle of a 'new history.' What can a writer, even one with talent, find that is new to say about a conflict over which so many words have been spilt? The answer is not much. But Roberts presents his material well. The portrayal of the Holocaust is necessarily horrifying and effectively linked with the knowledge of the crimes displayed by senior officers of the Wehrmacht in POW camps whose conversations were covertly recorded by their British captors. None were innocent despite the popular prejudice that the SS alone were the real villains. The controversy of the Allied bomber offensive against occupied Europe is presented in a clear and balanced fashion despite its conventional conclusion. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a general overview of WWII. I have only two quibbles: 1. The sources are not always given, but this is a flaw of the medium rather than the book: you can't have footnotes in an audiobook and; 2. The voices. Mr Rodska is a fine reader but he insists on enlivening the quotes with special accents. It is like listening to an episode of 'Allo Allo' (google it). The 'voices' came very close to making me give up this audio book. It may have been my horrified fascination as to whether Rodska would lapse into a Jackie Chan or Inspector Closeau's Cato accent for the Far East battles which kept me listening. If he did I repressed the memory. Please no more accents. You're not bringing the material alive. You're killing me. Thus 3 stars only.
"Things I had never known!"
I am a 67 yr old history buff. I have read many WWII histories, but none as complete as the Storm of War. I especially enjoyed the indepth coverage of "the Easten Front". No one has ever covered it better. Plus, the reader does a fantastic job. He is able to hold your interest through out. Very well done & 5 Stars is my honest vote. War history buffs should not miss this one. John
"Fantastically Detailed, Spectacularly Narrated"
This is the most complete history of the second World War I have read. The author has gone to commendable lengths to condense the immense histories of this engagement into one volume and to present some wonderful assessments of how the outcome of the war might have been different had different personalities and decisions been made at critical times. The narration is excellent, one of the best I have encountered, and his accents gave real character and presence to the quotations littered throughout the book. This is highly recommended for any who possess an interest in military, or 20th century history.
"An absolute pleasure!!"
Im not basing my 5 star review on content but rather on narration. This is a very well written run-through of WWII touching on all the important points and offering well thought out opinions. What makes it a stand-out is the narration of Christian Rodska. With brilliant pacing, amusing accents and command of the difficult European, Japanese and Russian names, he makes this 28 hour fact-fest a pleasure to listen to.
I should start by saying that I had only a limited knowledge of the history of the second world war. In that respect, this book serves its purpose in that it gives a pretty straight-forward chronological account of the entire war. It is a huge subject and, even with the long running time, it is no mean task to do justice to the material. I thought the narrator did a good job although let down a bit by being considerably better at some accents than others.
What I did find increasingly disconcerting about the book was its tone. There seemed to be a little bit too much relish taken in the details and the almost jokey approach taken at times jarred for me. I also found his analysis of Hitler a little strange. It felt like he found him far more worthy of censure for his poor military strategic capabilities than say little details like his organization of the genocide of the jews and other "untermenschen". I am sure this is not the case but the emphasis seemed wrongly placed. In general, once the narrative strayed beyond reasonably cold and hard facts, I was not always convinced by it. For example, if an opinion was given on a debatable area, this was usually done by simply being emphatic, e.g. "of course this is nonsense", without actually giving any support for this opinion.
"Comprehensively informative & convincingly argued"
I have already recommended this audiobook to several friends. I have done so because it is chock full of relevant information and analysis about one of the most formative events in contemporary history, and because it is narrated wonderfully.
Throughout the book this central argument bubbles beneath all of the stories and analysis: that nazi ideology and the inability of the German high command to override it was the deciding overall factor in the outcome of the war. While the narrative still gives plenty of room to descriptions of every single front in the war as well as many of the most famous people involved, it never looses sight of the overarching purpose of the book, which is to find documentation for the central argument. Still, you will find plenty of witness accounts not only from the top of the top, but often from people who have bled and suffered and died in this mind-boggingly massive conflict.
At first I had my doubts about Rodska's approach. He takes on an impressive amount of accents when reading the quotations from witnesses in the book, and what put me off was not this, but the characters he adopted when quoting the most famous people involved. His imitation of Churchill is quite good, but his Hitler seemed at first over the top. But as the narrative unfolded, it build the case that Hitler was primarily a domineering man of surprisingly little talent for such a prominent historical figure. As such the choice to voice him as an intense and dirty little man grows from being a charicature to actually illuminate the psyche of the despicable dictator.
All in all the characterisation in the quotations pays off enormously in making the very, very long text come alive with a variety that is probably harder to convey effectively in the written medium (although I have not read the book in print). So if you're having trouble with it initially, stay the course. If nothing else, the Churchill impression is a hoot.
Many moments, but let me mention two. An intellectual and an emotional.
First the intellectual moment: re-listening to the book I was startled when around the middle suddenly popped up a chapter on the Holocaust. As all the other chapters are arranged as analysis of the different fronts reviewed chronologically, this was structurally weird, since the chapter spanned the entire war. But then it dawned on me. Coming as it was halfway through, it sat beautifully as a reminder of why the seemingly indestructible nazi war machine collapsed: because of the cruel and inflexible nazi ideology epitomised in the horrors of the concentration camps and their meaningless and ressource demanding slaughter of civilians. Realising this structure was a moment of intellectual clarity that stayed with me, and made the review of the atrocities more bearable.
Then the emotional one. Soldiers marching back from the front in Russia, where the witness describing their march suddenly realises that they have no eyelids, because they have frozen off in the cold. This stark image of the scars of warfare suffered by the common soldier for a cause he has little influence on and reaps no benefit from sacrificing himself for has stayed with me ever since I first heard of it.
This is history at its finest - a faithful rendering of events that slowly build up evidence for an interpetration of the meaning of said events in a larger context. I cannot recommend this wonderful audiobook enough.
This is a long long book and you had better be ready for it. I am a history nut and enjoyed it as to all the facts but I already knew alot of what was gathered here in the book. I would still recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history and am not sorry I picked it to listen to.
"Incisive and clear"
An excellent book. Looks at the big picture, yet is full of quotes that help explain the thinking of the main characters.
The author has undertaken an immense review of sources to find the quotes by the main political readers and the many generals on both sides. The context of the main decisions is now understood and somehow makes sense.
The narration by Christian Rodska is simply perfect. There must be a prize he should win.
I have listened to dozens of books on Audible and this is one of the very best.If you have an interest in WWII you will thoroughly enjoy this book. While the emphasis is on Europe the Pacific War is well covered. Christian Rodska is a perfect reader for this. The battles, the horrors,the personalities and the politics are all comprehensively dealt with. A totally engrossing book that I am sure you will appreciate as much as I did.
It's a fantastic story very well told by Andrew Roberts. It's very credible with the references from other historical records. I highly recommend it for avid students of history.
"Good Book on the Horror that was WWII"
Best part of the book is the 4th part and the conclusion. The review of the Eastern Front was fantastic. At times it did go into a list of number troops, types of weaponry which did not translate to audio probably be fine in the written form. If you like History this is a well written book that went into great depth on most areas of the war. I will recommend this for my farther I think he will enjoy as well.
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