"It all depends on your choice of shots" is how one moviemaker described documentary film. Authors of one-volume histories of World War II, the deadliest conflict in human history, operate under the same imperative. Some of those writers pull back to capture the vast scope of events; others focus their word cameras on military leaders or political potentates. This major work by award-winning historian Anthony Beevor (Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943) favors a kaleidoscopic view that moves boldly between individual close-ups and broader views of disparate confrontations in this truly global war. The result carries both emotional force and penetrating insights about human decision-making in what might otherwise appear to be simply an uncontrollable hurricane of history. Editor's recommendation.
Beevor successfully employs the format of his previous works on WWII (Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942–1943) in this comprehensive capstone. His approach presents a kaleidoscope of individual experiences in a context of continuous choices. His subtext is a warning not to become overwhelmed by statistics and abstractions or by the notion that historical events are predetermined. WWII was “an amalgamation of conflicts” dating back as far as WWI and structured by “a cycle of resentments.” But the war was set in motion by a single person—Adolf Hitler—and its extension reflected specific decisions by specific people, and its course changed lives across the globe in ways impossible to predict. Beevor supports these points through narrative that displays his particular strength for description—whether of fire-bomb raids, infantry combat, death camp routines, or high-level negotiations—in a page-turner. His command of a comprehensive spectrum of sources enables him to present the war from the perspective of its participants. And from heads of state to front-line riflemen, from field marshals to teenaged girls, Beevor’s protagonists exercise choice in the context of “the greatest man-made disaster in history.” Hypocrisy and self-sacrifice, corruption and idealism, sadism and compassion, genocide and cannibalism: Beevor brilliantly shows, at all levels, that WWII defies easy generalization. 32 pages of b&w photos, 23 maps. Agent: Andrew Nurnberg, Andrew Nurnberg Associates (U.K.) (June)
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication date: 6/5/2012