nrhemme, January 30, 2012 (view all comments by nrhemme)
Amazing one volume account of WW2 tells how the war affected both soldiers and civilians, as well as a an overview of the war. You will read things here you have not read elsewhere. It will prompt further reading.
Mark Nora, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Mark Nora)
An excellent primer for the novice, or the master. Hastings casts a critical eye at the true sacrifices of allies, and in particular the Russians and the English. He artfully explores the impact of the war on civilian populations, as well as the combat soldiers, sailors and airmen, and the governing elites. He also places the war in its historical context of the end of colonial empires. If there is a shortcoming, it relates to the war in the Pacific.
Steve Given, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Steve Given)
Max Hastings has done something very difficult, write an engaging history from a new and unique perspective of a historical event that has been written to death and brings something new to the story. Liberally laced with source material that includes individual soldiers, sailors and civilians profoundly impacted by the Second World War, Hastings' work brings a new perspective to a well work subject. Great history lives through its source material, and Inferno illuminates lives of many who lived and died during this world-wide conflict. The prose in Inferno takes a well-worn subject and makes a page turner of events that shaped the modern world. Max Hastings' history of the Second World War is spiced with his perspective on the events of the war. Inferno is a highly readable history, the best of 2011.
Knopf Publishing Group -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Hastings continues a recent substantial body of general audience writing on WWII (Armageddon; Retribution,) in this equally well-researched and well-presented account focusing on the conflict's human dimension, looking at both soldiers and civilians, members of both Allies and Axis. For millions of ordinary people the war was 'hell let loose,' imposing, at the least, drastic change and, at worst, incomprehensible horror — 60 million died. Participants assembled the 'vast jigsaw puzzle' of war with the pieces they had and made sense of it in terms of their own circumstances. Hastings succeeds admirably in synthesizing the results in a globe-girdling context from Guadalcanal to the Dnieper River. He establishes, in some sense, the temporary nature of war — that soldiers seldom lost their identity as civilians in uniform, and civilians counted the days until normality returned. That mind-set determined the war's nature: structured by mass participation and institutional effectiveness. In Russia, for instance, the German invasion led to 'a surge of popular enthusiasm' to support Russia, followed rapidly by despair and men trying to evade the draft. As Hastings makes clear, the war's impact also outlasted the conflict: for decades people judged one another by their wartime behavior; for many the psychological impact of the horrors never left them. Illus., maps." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An indelible account of what World War II was like for the people who experienced it, from soldiers at the front to civilians both near and far from the fighting, to the generals and political leaders making the decisions that affected the lives of millions.
While other great histories of the war have focused primarily on generals and politicians, Inferno is unique in its portrait of everyday people--of American and British housewives, Soviet infantrymen, Indian peasants, and Luftwaffe crew. Max Hastings provides a singularly intimate account of the war. But the larger context is here, too: Hastings widens his focus to explain the geopolitics and larger strategic considerations of the war, from Hitler's refusal to retreat in Russia until it was too late, to Stalin's ruthlessness in using his greater population to wear down the Germans, to Churchill's leadership in the dark days of 1940 and 1941, to Roosevelt's steady leadership before and after the United States entered the war. Flawlessly written and bracingly opinionated and argued, Inferno is a new and essential understanding of one of the most significant events of the twentieth century.
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