In tackling the Second World War Antony Beevor was picking a big subject. I had reservations. I love his accounts of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin. But it wasn’t obvious to me that the same formula would work. Usually he gives enough background to understand what was at stake and then looks at how individuals caught up in these big events coped with them. Would this work on a larger scale?
And in fact I was right to be worried to some extent. It doesn’t work as well, but it still works well enough to produce a really splendid and readable book. If you are looking for a book on World War 2 there are plenty to choose from. But I can’t think of a better one than this, particularly if you want to know what it was like to take part in it.It is easy to forget one of the most obvious facts about World War 2, which is that a very common experience of it as a participant was to simply get killed straight away. Millions of people’s lives were abruptly, un-heroically and completely pointlessly brought to a sudden violent end. No war has taken a greater toll on innocent bystanders.And you were no better off if you were involved officially.