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.
The subtitle is a bit misleading. Rather than writing a true people's history, Taylor (Dresden) provides a straightforward narrative of how World War II started from the perspectives of the major players in Great Britain and Germany ... Written in an accessible, engaging style, this book will appeal most to casual readers of popular history.
... an incisive survey ... Taylor’s research impresses, though the granularity of detail may daunt all but the most dedicated of readers, and a through line about German serial killer Johann Eichhorn seems out of place. This exhaustive deep-dive offers fresh insights into how WWII happened.
... the author uses diaries, letters, newspapers, surveys, and police reports to deliver a vivid account of how ordinary Britons and Germans reacted ... For World War II buffs, an illuminating study of a depressing year.