RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)... [a] white-knuckle ride ... gripping narrative ... high-octane adventure ... Hastings’s four-day tableaux of bloodshed is not for the faint-hearted. There’s the memorable account of Giacomo Metelline, gaping in horror when he went to the rescue of a fellow airman ... As for winners and losers, Hastings ends his highly readable book with the apposite question of whether Operation Pedestal was worth the loss of 13 ships, 34 planes and some 500 men.
RaveAirMailThe very word \'convoy\' conjures an image of lumbering merchant ships ferrying food and supplies. It’s hardly the stuff to set the pulse racing. The veteran historian Max Hastings wants to redress this misconception with his latest book, Operation Pedestal ... The extraordinary events that followed, between August 11 and 15, form the white-knuckle ride of Hastings’s gripping narrative. This is a high-octane adventure served up with torpedoes, Stuka dive-bombers and catastrophic U-boat attacks ... Hastings’s four-day tableaux of bloodshed is not for the fainthearted.
RaveThe Times (UK)Kuczynski’s remarkable life is the subject of Ben Macintyre’s latest book, a biography-cum-history that comes with a gripping narrative, a beguiling protagonist and a sensational denouement. The manner in which Kuczynski survived the extreme hazards of living life on the edge will keep you glued to your armchair ... Macintyre’s page-turner is a dazzling portrait of a flawed yet driven individual who risked everything (including her children) for the cause. Drawn from unpublished memoirs and letters, plus Kuczynski’s voluminous writings, it reveals an idealist addicted to danger. Above all it is the portrait of a lucky survivor.
MixedThe Times (UK)Johnson’s book is on one level a biographical retelling of Every’s crimes, recreating his most spectacular voyage in fine detail. However, it is far more ambitious than a conventional biography, with a narrative that’s as sprawling as the voyage itself ... [Johnson] deploys lengthy digressions to explain, as he sees it, the historical significance of Every...the same discursive approach that the author used in his book The Ghost Map. Many loved it, some found it infuriating...They may have a similar reaction to this book. The finest digressions are short and captivating, such as the explanation of how a faulty cannon barrel explodes. A far longer one recounts the history of the Sea Peoples, refugees from Mycenaean Greece who were the world’s first known piratical community ... Every’s legacy is probably much narrower and darker, with his career inspiring a whole new generation of sea dogs to raise the Jolly Roger and commit unspeakable crimes and atrocities.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)The dambusters’ story has spawned such a flood of books, it’s a wonder there is anything new to say. But Max Hasting’s Chastise is a virtuoso performance from a veteran military historian. It is a white-knuckle narrative that brings clarity and insight to a much-loved tale, as well as offering a vital corrective to the drum-thumping conclusions of earlier books ... It is thought-provoking indeed to read a book about the Second World War in which the victims are Germans and the chief villain is British. In Chastise, Hastings has written a page-turner with attitude, retaining his childhood exuberance for the Dambusters’ story but tempering it with the grim reality of lost lives and questionable sacrifice.
MixedThe Times (UK)These war-gaming Wrens clearly played an important role in Watu’s work, but they remain frustratingly opaque in Parkin’s narrative, presumably because there is little about them in the archives ... But did Roberts’s war-gaming really win the war, as the book’s bold subtitle would have us believe? The breaking of the German Enigma ciphers by Bletchley Park’s cryptographers surely did more to contribute to allied victory than Watu’s simulated battles, while new technologies played an increasingly pivotal role in the battle against the U-boats...Roberts was but one of many creative individuals whose work helped defeat Nazi Germany ... The story of the game of birds and wolves has all the elements of a film by Powell and Pressburger:...It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that the book has recently been optioned by DreamWorks, the same Steven Spielberg company that made Saving Private Ryan. For the film to be a success, though, they will need to enhance the female characters with a large splash of artistic licence.
PositiveThe Sunday TimesAs a military narrative, the Arnhem operation ticks all the boxes, with violence aplenty and lashings of heroism, plus endurance, comradeship and stubborn pride. Above all, it has a cast of magnificently flawed protagonists and mud-splattered foot soldiers ... Beevor takes a rather different approach to the unfolding events, viewing them with the detached eye of a military observer. The analysis he has produced of the disaster is forensic ... Aficionados of military history will revel in Beevor’s microscopic detail, with every skirmish given its rightful place. Yet there are times when the sheer wealth of material threatens to engulf the narrative in a way it never does in Ryan or Atkinson. The author’s cover-all-the-bases approach is intended, perhaps, to accurately reflect the chaos on the ground. Yet I couldn’t help wondering whether fewer characters—and a tighter focus—might have brought greater clarity to this vast human drama ... Beevor’s prodigious research has nevertheless unearthed many treasures, particularly his record of the sufferings of Dutch civilians who risked their necks by nursing wounded allied soldiers. Also welcome is the author’s willingness to pass judgment on the main players ... Montgomery, in particular, comes across as an insufferable bore with a highly inflated ego ... Beevor blames Montgomery for the Arnhem disaster. \'It was quite simply a very bad plan right from the start.\' It was, indeed, sheer balls.