The Second World War in 100 Facts by Clive Pearson

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The Second World War in 100 Facts by Clive Pearson

Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Chances are you really will get a lot more from these pages than you assumed had you judged it by the title alone.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 9781445653532

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To begin at the beginning, that is one dissembling title. 100 Facts? There are bounties galore here that that low figure belies. There are a lot more, and I would attest that there will be some you aren't completely au fait with. If the Phoney War and the Battle of the Plate are bread and butter to you, how about Matapan? You could well be used to reading essays about Goebbels or Speer, but Field-Marshal von Manstein? That's not to say this is utterly exhaustive or complex, nor confined to the trivial. Its unexpected format actually makes it one of the better primers for the entire WWII, before, during and after.

It would be better called 100 Quick Essays about the War or suchlike, as everything, introduction and the hundred bodies of work alike, is all brief – none breaches more than two pages. But essays they are, as opposed to trivial soundbites. It's perfect, then, for dipping into (The Second World War in 100 Trips to the Loo?), but a strong chronological order allows a wonderful timeline of the war. Sometimes the writing leaves you on a tenterhook, suggesting a change will be needed for the course of battle to be altered – not so much a change as far as we're concerned, more the patience for the right essay to come up, before we're back in the narrative flow.

The bonus of the writing is that it doesn't inundate with those pesky data you find elsewhere, although at times you do get quite a few comparative death rates and other factoids. I just found the spread of subjects to be quite superlative – I actually went into this book thinking a mere 100 would be reductive, and nothing like enough. Instead, even when it goes down the tabloid newspaper route in naming its essays (A British submarine keeps a reindeer on board! is the classic example, however true it was), it covers all the bases, and, importantly, all the theatres of war.

So if you want to learn about the Brit who invented blitzkrieg war, or just how successful the Dambusters bombs actually were, or how a bear comes to figure here alongside the reindeer, then this is the place to turn. It's damnably educational, and for the amount of new information it gave a non-specialist like me, I should be loving this book. Well, a better edit, taking out a few clumsy paragraphs and errors, and including a few more commas for comprehension, would have worked. And in keeping with the basic-essays-and-nought-else plan, there is no index, and no list of sources, so the entry, say, on Hitler's medication, needs a pinch of salt with its spoonful of sugar. That, and the mini-essay approach (The Second World War in 100 Box-Outs), means this is perhaps not the best as a reference piece – but remains high up in the instantly readable. In fact, this, the first in a long chain of 100 Facts books from this publisher that I've had the pleasure of seeing, really stands out for me as a gentle, easy, welcoming and yet informative title.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

In a similar fashion, Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing boils everything down to little over three weeks – and is still not for the reader seeking just the basics.

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Buy The Second World War in 100 Facts by Clive Pearson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Second World War in 100 Facts by Clive Pearson at


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