PositiveThe Sunday Times (UK)Parkin’s account of the experiences of the internees is vivid and moving. The narrative sometimes becomes confusing, as he leapfrogs from one episode to another, but his book spotlights a sorry aspect of Britain’s war that deserves to be better known.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)This is the most comprehensive and best account of resistance I have read. It addresses the story with scholarly objectivity and an absolute lack of sentimentality. So much romantic twaddle is still published, especially about Britain’s Special Operations Executive and particularly about its female agents, that it is marvellous to read a study of such breadth and depth, which reaches balanced judgments ... It is not iconoclastic — indeed, pays effusive tribute to the courage of those who resisted. It merely seeks to address sometimes unpalatable realities.
RaveSunday Times (UK)An authoritative global narrative ... The author cherishes powerful passions ... Kennedy’s book is lavishly illustrated with watercolour paintings by the fine marine artist Ian Marshall, together with excellent maps and graphs ... Kennedy, foremost naval historian of our generation, is nonetheless a romantic. Some of his judgments — for instance about the shortcomings of Britain’s Fleet Air Arm, created by its shockingly inadequate aircraft — are less harsh than my own. Most of the book’s verdicts are hard to contest, however ... I believe the Royal Navy and US navy to have been the outstanding wartime fighting services of their respective nations. Kennedy offers them a fitting tribute and a penetrating analysis.
David de Jong
PositiveThe Sunday Times (UK)It is impossible to fault de Jong’s fierce indignation in this book. He must be right, to urge that the descendants of Hitler’s tycoons should admit their ancestors’ criminality, as some do not. But what else does he want? For them to surrender their ill-gotten inheritances to good causes? ... It is not realistically possible, in 2022, to exact retrospectively the retribution that was not imposed in 1945. St Moritz and St Tropez, together with the nasty and absurdly expensive Mayfair members’ dining clubs, will continue to be thronged with the heirs and heiresses to evil, jostled by their modern kin, children of the Kremlin oligarchs.
Harald Jähner tr. Shaun Whiteside
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)... important, exemplary ... admirably unsentimental ... This is the kind of book few writers possess the clarity of vision to write, about the relatively recent past of their own societies. Most of the Germans who survived the Second World War never witnessed the crimes committed in their name or the miseries they had inflicted on the world. The dead were out of sight, out of mind. German civilians in the heimat (homeland) just saw their own tragedies, and considered these monstrously undeserved. Jahner thinks otherwise.
RaveThe Times (UK)The story is extraordinary, and Plokhy is an accomplished narrator ... Plokhy, like most American historians of the crisis, does not discuss an issue that loomed large in the minds of America’s allies: whether Soviet missiles in Cuba, further from Washington than were US missiles in Turkey from Moscow, constituted a just cause for a showdown ... This account is probably as authoritative a version of the Soviet side as we are likely to get.
PositiveThe Times (UK)John Gooch is an academic historian who knows more about 20th-century Italy than perhaps anyone else in Britain. Already the author of a biography of Mussolini, now he addresses explicitly his record as a warlord, from the 1935 Abyssinian campaign through the 1936 intervention in the Spanish Civil War to the Second World War ... He paints a record of appalling brutality, epic incompetence ... Gooch’s authoritative account might have benefited from more human anecdotage, but offers much detail about Italy’s war-making. Essentially its industry was far too weak for the country rationally to adopt a choice to participate in a total war.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)[Lowe\'s] descriptions and explanations are always thoughtful and evocative, sometimes controversial ... it would be wrong to give the impression that Lowe’s book is iconoclastic. For all his reservations about our statues and memorials, he concludes by urging that we should not hasten to topple those that suddenly seem displeasing ... Lowe’s sensitive, disturbing book should be compulsory reading for both statue builders and statue topplers. Too many memorials of all kinds seek to promote deceits or half-truths. While recognising their imperfections, however, we should be readier to indulge these than are some modern protesters.
RaveThe Times (UK)This is the first of two volumes by a Pulitzer-winning Harvard professor of the highest gifts, and the most compelling biography I have read in years ... There has been a host of JFK biographies, but this one excels for its narrative drive, fine judgments and meticulous research, especially about money, women and the subject’s early writings ... This big book, which breaks off in 1956, makes the story seem a cliffhanger even though we know what is coming.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Moorehead paints a wonderfully vivid and moving portrait of the women of the Italian Resistance ... I am doubtful, however, whether she entirely justifies the claim in her subtitle, that they \'liberated Italy from fascism.\' The allied armies did that. Although partisans played a useful marginal role in many theatres of war, nowhere did they alter fundamentals: outcomes were determined by the big battalions ... She depicts a tragic fate that is timeless, of dreams forged in adversity, shattered by collisions with practical politics.\
PanThe Sunday TimesThe author suggests that guilt was...widespread. I question this, recalling a passage of Alan Moorehead’s superb book Eclipse, about his experience of 1945 Germany. He encountered little sense of guilt, he wrote, but rather an overpowering sense of defeat, such as had not existed in 1918, created by the devastation and occupation of the country ... unsatisfactory because it poses far more questions than it can answer ... The author’s relatively brief bibliography suggests that he may have read less than many other European writers about 1945 Germany, because books on the war command so poor a sale in his country. Many foreigners have written more graphically and interestingly than he does, about those ghastly times.
MixedThe Times (UK)\"This is a sloppy, undisciplined book, which makes some penetrating and important points amid a heap of self-indulgent clutter ... In his anger about [the hatred the U.S. government has inspired in some parts of the world because of their assumptions of superiority], however, he ignores the critical truth, that for all its vices, follies and periodic descents into evil, the United States has been broadly a Good Thing, not merely for its own people, but for most of us.\
MixedLondon Review of BooksWhile The Kremlin Letters contributes to the authoritative documentation of the war, I retain a significant reservation about its collaborative character. The editors pay tribute to the merit of a British scholar working together with his Russian peers to produce the volume. Yet morbid Russian sensitivity about the narrative of the Great Patriotic War makes it inevitable that the commentaries are less trenchant than one would normally expect of David Reynolds ... the correspondence opens no more ‘windows’ than most exchanges between national leaders. It merely provides a record—a very useful record—of what the participants considered it appropriate to say to one another at a critical period of modern history ... If any of these three men had said what they really thought, the Grand Alliance would barely have functioned for five minutes ... The fact that many realities about the war, as Western historians see them, are by law denied a hearing in Putin’s Russia imposes limitations on the explicitness of a scholarly co-operation such as this one ... Even so it is welcome that this book has been produced. The authoritative version of the message texts makes a significant contribution to the scholarship of the period. But it would be hard to claim that anything in these pages significantly alters our picture of the conflict, or of the relationship between the principals.
RaveThe New York Review of Books\"... excellent ... Spurling, a veteran biographer most notably of Matisse, writes with her accustomed savvy ... [Powell\'s] books are unlikely ever to be placed on the top shelf of twentieth-century literature, but they deserve to appear on the one below. A Dance to the Music of Time is a remarkable achievement, as is Spurling’s biography of its author.\
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Where Roberts’s 2014 biography hailed modern Europe’s constitutional and legal frameworks as Napoleon’s legacy, Zamoyski finds it hard to avert his eyes from the mountain of corpses ... If this excellent study has a weakness, it is that Zamoyski never satisfactorily explains what it was all for, what end this incurably restless prodigy envisaged for himself or his empire ... This book focuses on Napoleon the man rather than on his battles. Waterloo receives only a page, sensibly so, because there is nothing fresh to be said. The emperor has had few biographers who address this shooting star with Zamoyski’s narrative power and nuanced judgment. Napoleon’s greatness is beyond dispute: he rode the tide of his times with awesome success. But his country remains cursed by its reverence for the illusion of glory that he created.\
MixedThe Wall Street Journal“It is a disappointment to reach the end of John le Carré, which is admirably scholarly but far too long, and find no valedictory assessment of its subject’s literary achievement.”