Book Review: Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945

12933892I wasn’t sure what to expect from a one-volume history of World War II but it turns out that Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings really isn’t a conventional history of the war. Instead of writing about the chronology of the war or battles, Hastings writes about the human experience of the war. He writes about what not only soldiers, sailors, and airmen experienced but what civilians experienced as well. A recurring theme is the cost of the war in the east versus the cost of the war in the west; the cost of the war in the east was higher, especially in lives and the Soviet Union usually carried the biggest burden in fighting Germany. Often, World War II histories seem to gloss over things the Allies did wrong and mistakes they made, but Hastings is also balanced and honest. He points out that while the Axis were guilty of war crimes, the Allies’ reputation was lily white either. This is a book that, in my opinion, should be required reading on the war because it lays out the human cost of World War II and puts the war in perspective. It’s a long book, but one that I highly recommend.

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