Thursday, 15 May 2008

War, war

The two previous posts have revolved around World War II, and here's a third before moving on to other things.

One of the most engaging books I read in the last year was Troublesome Young Men by Lynne Olson. It's a history of the politics of appeasement in Britain in the time leading up to and beyond the outbreak of war between Britain and Nazi Germany. It's concerned primarily with the struggle in parliament by Tory rebels to remove Chamberlain and replace him with a leader willing to take on the Nazi threat.

The book gives a frightening picture of what a close run thing that struggle was, why Churchill was not necessarily the preferred candidate, and why he became the only possible choice. It also shows how the delay in defeating appeasement most likely lengthened the war, increasing the consequent loss of life, and how appeasement actually continued beyond Britain's entry into the war.

There's a New York Times review of the book by William Grimes, and another by John Meacham.

At one point Lynne Olson's book mentions Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh, a very sharp satire set during the phony war, the period from Britain's declaration of war in September 1939 to the failed defence of Norway in early 1940. The book was published soon after, in 1942. By chance I'd just picked up a copy from the bargain box outside a secondhand bookshop on Gloucester Road, so I went straight on with it, and the two books enriched each other greatly.


StuckInABook said...

Just bought this book, hope you don't mind if I borrow the picture for my blog?

kellie said...

Thanks for the link back, I hope you enjoy it!