It's too easy to dismiss the Second World War. To relegate that epochal conflict into realms of ancient history, action films, kitset models, unread Father's day gifts, and black & white footage. But we all live through the consequences of this epic global struggle. This was the last time western civilisation brought itself close to destruction and it was a close call. 60 million lives were lost and no one died easily. The war was also raging just shy of 80 years ago. In the scheme of human history, that's recent.
Beevor's history of the global conflict - and it was global - is a page-turning affair. Vivid, engaging, heartbreaking, shocking. Really fine storytelling and a first class history, encompassing the great conflicts of east and west (China's experience of the war is much overlooked in the west but not in these pages). I found myself engrossed by this monumental history of the very worst ideas and behaviour that our species is only too willing to pursue in order to self-destruct. It's also a compelling tale of so many acts of courage and sacrifice. Epic in the truest sense of the word and a chilling warning from history that I wish everyone would heed and read.
Have we learned the lessons of the Second World War? I'd say they are being forgotten, or that many alive today remain unaware of the significance of the conflict. At a time when the world has never been more interconnected, when the UK leaves a united Europe, and when there are more geopolitical upheavals than we can fully acknowledge, and when we watch the rise and rise of simple fundamentalist ideologies at the expense of humanity and reason, even logic, I'd say Beevor's The Second World War offers an important perspective for right now.