All Hell Let Loose
June 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
It is impossible to dignify the struggle as an unalloyed contest between good and evil, nor rationally to celebrate an experience, and even an outcome, which imposed such misery upon so many. Allied victory did not bring universal peace, prosperity, justice or freedom; it brought merely a portion of those things to some fraction of those who had taken part. All that seems certain is that Allied victory saved the world from a much worse fate that would have followed the triumph of Germany and Japan. With this knowledge, seekers after virtue and truth must be content.
The above quoted paragraph, the conclusion to Hastings’ 748 page account, is a succinct reflection of the writing and tone found throughout the book. Hastings lavishes praise where deserved and caustic criticism where necessary. Myths and misconceptions regarding the Second World War abound, and Hastings debunks most of them. All Hell Let Loose is a portrait of human suffering; a panorama of hell. As the author has said in several interviews: there are no portraits of generals; no chapters dedicated to analyzing politicians or leaders. This book is built solely on the experiences of people: German tank commanders; Russian housewives; G.I.s; Indian peasants, interwoven with the geopolitical events that marked the Second World War.
All Hell Let Loose is an admirable effort at presenting what the Second World War meant, and was like for ordinary people.