Mr. McKay’s rich narrative and descriptive gifts provide us with an elegant yet unflinching account of that terrible night. Leaning on eyewitness accounts and memoirs, material he arranges with skill and sensitivity, he brings us unnervingly close to the visceral horror of the firestorm, while devoting due attention to the fears and moral conflicts affecting the British and American attackers, from the bomber crews to the senior commanders. He also describes the clearing and the eventual rebuilding of the city, which, from May 1945, was first occupied by the Soviet army, then administered by the Stalinist regime’s German minions ... If there is a perspective, or partial perspective, not fully present in this otherwise excellent book, it is perhaps a political one ... As for the large, highly aggressive, anti-Islamic marches, organized by a group known as Pegida, that have disfigured the city’s political landscape for some years now, making it a notorious breeding-ground for far-right extremism—including latterly, openly anti-Semitic and antidemocratic agitation as well—Mr. McKay does not mention these at all ... is nonetheless to be recommended as a very readable and finely crafted addition to the literature on one of modern history’s most morally fraught military operations.
...historians, journalists and television producers have returned to the Dresden firestorm time and again ... So, faced with the appearance of Sinclair McKay’s Dresden: The fire and the darkness, it is legitimate to ask what contribution it makes to the debate. The answer is that it is an impressive, elegiac popular history that adds plenty of colour to the existing picture, without materially advancing the scholarship ... The book’s strength lies in its sheer readability, and in McKay’s work in local archives. This has produced some fascinating material ... The book is weaker on the broader context ... Any serious study of Dresden must grapple with issues of morality ... but one can understand [McKay's] desire to avoid wading too deeply into highly complex moral judgements.
MacKay’s engrossing account of Dresden’s citizens, in the moments before, during, and after the bombings, describe a community trying to manage everyday life in Nazi Germany until a cataclysm interrupted its routine ... Well researched, powerfully written, and balanced, this book will let the reader decide whether the bombing of Dresden was a war crime or a calculated step to bring a long and bloody war to an end. For all interested in military history and World War II.
McKay’s harrowing narrative conjures the 'satanic music' of passing aircraft and the burning of corpses whose stench was still recalled years later, all set against the daily malevolence of life under the Gestapo ... A full and powerful account of warfare that ignored the distinction between military and civilian objectives.