As a culmination of three decades of dedicated research on the subject, the former Fleet Street editor Max Hastings' ninth tome on the Second World War is undoubtedly his personal masterwork.
The book takes a bottom-up approach to history, presenting an everyman's perspective on the savagery of this global conflict. Hastings possesses a rare ability to wade through the mountains of diaries and letters penned by ordinary servicemen and civilians and emerge with a poignant quote, adding a vivid intimacy to his account of life during this era.
Refreshingly, he also is unafraid to debunk the mythology surrounding the British and American militaries' roles in the war, claiming both forces were outfought on the battlefield, and were ultimately only victorious due to superior equipment and the tactical blunders of their adversaries' high command.
Whatever the causes of the Axis Powers' defeat, around 60 million people had perished by the time the fighting ceased. While this colossal death toll is incomprehensible to most of us, Hastings' authoritative book offers as complete an insight as possible into the untold horrors, fear and misery inflicted on the victims.