Tuesday, 5 January 2010


On the basis that this book, by David Faber, was absolutely brilliant, I'm making an exception to the general rule I decided on that I was not going to review any books I'd read last year and not done so far. It's also the book which gets both my 200th review (or at least, 200th post with the label 'books'), and first one of the New Year. I thought I'd better pick a good book for this one :)

Munich is basically a book that covers the year 1938 in great detail, from both British and German perspectives, and with a fair bit about the Italians thrown in for good measure, along with some France and USA. It charts the lead up to the Munich Conference of 1938, and the result of that conference. A fascinating book, one that I couldn't put down, were it fiction I would compare it with Tom Clancy. For want of a better comparison, that's what I'll still do. If you've ever read one of the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy (probably his others too, but I can't speak from experience), you'll know what I'm talking about. Political thrillers of the highest order, the processes of government dealt with judiciously, the characters brilliantly depicted, the tension such that you can scarcely bear to put the book down, even if it's four in the morning and you've to be up for college in the morning. That's basically what reading Munich was like. Change the names, maybe a couple of details, and David Faber would've written a great piece of fiction. But the evidence of careful research is there, and this book was both highly enjoyable, gripping, and informative.

One of the criticisms often levelled at narrative history seems to be that it draws no judgements, it's not proper, analytical history. It was not difficult to see Faber's opinions in this book. Nor was it hard to agree with him. The parallels between Chamberlain's style of government and Hitler's were astounding. They weren't highlighted, but at the same time Chamberlain was basically forcing Eden to resign with a bit of a manufactured disagreement over Italy to hide the true reason (Chamberlain's out of hand rejection of the US offer to mediate in Europe) which couldn't be made public, Hitler was creating scandal to get rid of those generals he did not quite approve of. This wasn't pointed out, but it was something you noticed. And one of the other things was that at the end, I found myself more disgusted with Chamberlain, based on his personality, rather than with Hitler.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. My history teacher also keeps recommending it, and every time he does, Grace (person I sit next to in history, who leant me the book while I leant her the AJP Taylor one) and I look at each other and nod. If you are doing A-Level history and Appeasement, or at any other level I guess, it's absolutely brilliant. It gives you fantastic insight into the events, and it's not even boring! To be perfectly honest, even if you have no interest whatsoever in history, you'll probably still find this book fascinating, and it works as a book to read for entertainment too.

No comments: