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am 11. Juni 2011
First things first: Overy's "1939 - Countdown to War" isn't a bad book by any meaning. It's written in that great essayist style I've come to love from anglophone authors, a style that distinguishes them positively from most German authors in the field of non-fiction books. "1939" isn't a grand scale history of WW2, and it doesn't want to be that. Overy's book looks at the fateful days between August 24 and September 3, 1939, and tries to give the reader an overview about who the actors were and in what kind of a relationship they stood towards each other. There is some interesting information to be found in there, for example as to how the British saw the Swedish negotiator Birger Dahlerus, who - as a friend of Göring - tried via shuttle diplomacy between London and Berlin to prevent the outbreak of war. Another example is the strenous relationship between the French Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister, Bonnet.

That being said, the book does have obvious shortcomings. It merely *describes* events rather than trying to *explain* them while in the same breath criticising the conclusions of some other authors' works who *did* try just that. "1939" is also limited in more than just one way. Describing a "Countdown to War" while - consciously - leaving out the very steps that ignited said countdown makes for an exercise in disjointed reading. It's hard to get to terms with events when the actions that lead to them - the British guarantee of spring 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact & and Soviet-Allied discussions preceeding it - are pretty much ignored.

Secondly, "1939", even though it consciously limits itself to a very short period of time - adds little in the way of new information that works on a larger scale have not already presented in even more detail and in better context. For those who have read Schultze-Rhonhof or even Buchanan, "1939" is - simple regarding the amount of information given to the reader - a significant step back. And at a tad bit fewer than 35,000 words, Overy's book - hardcover or not - is severly overpriced.

My advice: If you haven't read anything beyond school book literature about the outbreak of WW2, Overy's "1939 - Countdown to War" is a good but expensive start. If you've however already read Schultze-Rhonhof or others of the same calibre you might just as well save yourself the money and the time.
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