Rich in social and cultural details that bring the era to life, 1939 makes use of a range of eyewitness testimony and contemporary assessments of public opinion, which together illuminate the variety of individual experience within a historic moment in international affairs ... this produces a cohesive effect, allowing Mr. Taylor to keep up the momentum of a much-told story—the coming of the European war—while conveying a powerful sense of what it felt like to watch the precipice approach ... By letting readers into the mental worlds of those dancing (and dining, reading, holiday-making) on the edge 81 years ago, Mr. Taylor makes us reflect on our own diversions and distractions amid the predicaments we now face.
... fascinating ... As the last of the World War II generation passes away, books like this are important to keep alive the immediacy of the time and show how great events are influenced by the actions of hundreds of ordinary people, good and evil.
Despite its unfortunate title, this is a fascinating and well-written book about how two nations embraced the prospect of war. By examining a turbulent year from the ground up, Taylor has inadvertently exposed crucial differences in national characteristics. The Germans, despite all their feverish enthusiasm for Hitler’s militaristic ambitions, were spiritually ill- prepared for war. The British, in contrast, had no martial enthusiasm, but fatalistically accepted war’s inevitability.