Audible – The Second World War by Anthony Beevor

I’ve not been posting much about my reading and audible recently, primarily because I’ve been listening to Anthony Beevor’s Second World War narrated by Sean Barrett, charting different aspects of the war from start to finish. While this is superb and incredibly interesting, it’s effing huge, so the audible files (yes, it’s that long) are 20 hours 49 minutes and 18 hours odd. It’s pretty hefty, and with a week of not going to the gym, it’s put me a little behind. As it is though, I have 7 hours 40 something to go.

Having read most of Anthony Beevor’s other Second World War books (Stalingrad and the Fall of Berlin were superb reads), I can say that this is much the same. It may not go through the sections in as much detail, but it does cover aspects of the war which I didn’t even know about – China’s part in the Far East, the crazy game of chess that world leaders seemed to play with each other, not wanting to offend certain parties, playing people against each other. All in all, it’s pretty grand the scheming and snidery that went on throughout. Monty, not as good as he was made out to be, Rommel, pretty good, but really harsh on his troops. The cock ups of Barbarosa, the cock ups of so many allied plans. The failings in the attempt to blow up Hitler.

One part I was particularly interested in, was the capture of Singapore. I have a couple of pals from that neck of the woods, and yet knew little of the history of SG itself. So, hearing of the capture by the Japanese, and the harsh treatment of troops, hospital staff and locals was pretty gutting.

I’ve not quite finished it at the moment, but I suspect everyone knows how it ends (if not, where have you been? and, What?!). I do recommend it if you’re into your military history, it’s informative and interesting without being too bogged down in ridiculous details so as to feel like you’re wading through treacle.

My only gripe is that the narrator Sean Barrett, every now and again, puts on an accent to read some of the quotes from Irish and American troops/figures (Roosevelt and such). While it doesn’t affect the whole experience, I couldn’t help but feel like it was pointless, especially when it sometimes sounded like he couldn’t quite speak proper (see what I did there?) rather than sounding American. The Irish accent he did, I didn’t realise until the final few words, thinking he was confused and pretending to be American again.

Shocking facts I didn’t know about, how many people ate… people. There were a lot of cases of folk eating other humans because of horrific food shortages, be they soldiers stuck in some hideous location, or prisoners who had been left behind by retreating troops, without food. Scary business.

All in all, well worth a go. My highlight was a perfect example of squaddie humour, which shows how it crosses over armies no matter where they’re from. A quote from one of the poor buggers caught up in the Kessel:

“On the first day of the holidays, we had goose with rice for dinner, on the second day, goose with peas. We have been eating geese for a long time. Only our geese have got four legs and horseshoes.”

Edit for the final hours:

One thing that struck me about the whole thing, was the grimness of it. At the end of the war, the total loss of life was ridiculous. I can’t remember the exact numbers quoted in the book, so have referenced Wikipedia (so no guarantee of accuracy…) which show similar to the figures mentioned, with around 60 million killed because of the war, be they dying in action/military deaths, or civilians killed, displaced or starved due to the war, the total number of Chinese killed totalled between 10 and 20 million. 10 and 20 million?! Horrifying. This is a country, which, from my knowledge prior to listening to the audiobook, I wasn’t really aware of just how involved it was.

Suffice to say, it’s a superb audiobook if you like your history, and it has plenty of quotes and information which brings it to life, and at times, gives you a look into the misery and suffering, the humanity and inhumanity. Top stuff.

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