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5.0 out of 5 stars Still among the best, Nov. 23 2003
This review is from: The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe (Paperback)
I read this book when it first came out in paperback in the 1960s, when I was a middle school student. It made a profound impact on me at the time. I recently saw it in basically the same Bantam mass market paperback edition I'd bought in the '60s (though without the photos and map contained in the '60s version, even though the price had increased five-fold in the interim). I re-read it again primarily out of curiosity, simply to see what I thought of it forty years later.
Despite having read many dozens of books on WWII in the intervening years, I was wowed by Toland's account all over again. Toland was a master storyteller, not an academic or military historian as such, and had a novelist's understanding of the illuminating detail, the minor tragedy emblematic of the whole, and the reader's fascination with the character of people acting under the most extreme duress imaginable.
Toland weaves together numerous narrative threads of the highest diplomacy (FDR, Churchill, and Stalin at Yalta), the lowest farce (the goings on of Hitler and his bizarre entourage in Hitler's underground bunker), and endless violent encounters -- between enemy forces, and between military forces and the huge masses of civilians fleeing the fighting or trapped in cities under ferocious bombardment.
While the book is populated with the brave and noble, at high levels and low, it is also frequented by monsters, knaves, cowards, innocent victims, and thugs on all sides (though the Germans, of course, were peerless in the scope and cruelty of their barbarities). This is not the place to go if you are looking for "the good war." This book gave me my first deep insight into why my uncle (now deceased, but at the time I first read this book younger than I am now), who had served as a rifleman in the 8th Infantry Division in Europe, seldom could be persuaded to talk about the war.
Toland's work was also somewhat unusual, when first published, in its lack of triumphalism. The atmosphere which permeates The Last 100 Days is not that of the impending victory of the good, or the impending defeat of the evil -- although the end of the war in Europe was certainly both -- but of immense tragedy and the dawning awareness that at the end of the war, the world was going to remain an exceedingly dangerous place, as the unnatural marriage of necessity between the Western powers and Stalin's Soviet Union came to an end.
Toland's narrative method has been adopted and adapted in other's subsequent works (Toland doubtless borrowed elements of it from others before him as well), but few have been his equal. And having read all of John Toland's several excellent books at one time or another, I am convinced that this book was his best. On the mountain of books on WWII, The Last 100 Days belongs near the top. This book should remain in print for a long time to come because it is great history, powerfully told.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Masterful Historical Work By John Toland!, July 17 2003
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe (Paperback)
Amid the literal landslide of books written to date on the single subject of the final fateful overthrow of the Third Reich by Allied forces advancing both from the east and west simultaneously, this early effort by famed author John Toland is easily the single best nugget in all that ore, a single volume effort that is a literal treasure trove of both anecdotal eye-witness testimony and exhaustive historical research. As in most of his terrific book, Toland threads an integrating narrative that plies us with a battery of both useful and entertaining information, with amusing nuggets of historical facts such as the fact that a visiting Winston Churchill halted the caravan in which he was being escorted for security reasons to very publicly urinate on the bridge, quipping that Hitler could "take that".
Indeed, in January of 1945, the Allied forces were poised to smash through the remnants of the Wehrmacht even as Hitler, convinced he could still win the war by dividing the two Allied armies and soliciting the western Allied phalanx to join him in an unholy war against the godless Bolsheviks. It is no exaggeration that it is unlikely that any other three-month period in modern history had the monumental impact of these three months as the evil empire of the Nazi regime was smashed into smithereens. Indeed, the ninety-day period saw historical events ranging from the conference at Yalta to the controversial and merciless bombing of Dresden, from the crucial crossing of the final bridge over the Rhine at Remagen to the brutal extermination of the German army at the hands of the Russians. And all of these, and many more, are described, discussed, and placed in historical context by an author who is a master of the trade of writing substantial popular works of history.
Toland's focus here is with the individuals involved, both those, who like Eisenhower, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, shaped the evens even as they transpired, and also with the soldiers, civilians, and observers who provide the human angle of what living on the ground in the midst of what sometimes was an endless cycle of carnage, murder, and devastation was like to experience. It is all here, from Hitler's suicide to Eisenhower's original plans for the Nazi war criminals (he wanted them shot without benefit of trial). Toland's narrative is tight, informative, and exciting to read. He does not so much provide an overall interpretation of what happened and why so much as he fully immerses the reader in the particulars and gives the contexts in which these specifics occur, letting the reader make his or her own decisions about what that means. This is popular history at its best, delivered by a master of the trade. Enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read wonderfully written, Feb. 28 2004
By 
Mannie Liscum (Columbia, MO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe (Paperback)
John Toland is a master. I have read three of his books on WWII and each is a masterpiece in its own right. "The Last 100 Days" is a perfect example. I couldn't put this book down. I have little time to read for fun but when I get my hands on a book like this my time flies!!! "The Last 100 Days" cover exactly that, from a multitude of perspectives: Soldiers: German, Russian, English, and American; leaders; and civilians. It's a story that could have only been told this way by someone with Toland's talents. His words always seem to come alive and "100 Days" is not different from other works of his I have read ("Battle" and "Adolf Hitler"). Despite the fact that I am pretty versed with WWII and the end of the ETO,fall of Berlin, etc., I was on the edge of my seat reading this book. It wasn't so much from new content but just in the way Toland tells the story. I highly recommend this book to both beginners and seasoned buffs alike. Its wonderful reading!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The End of One War and the Beginning of Another, May 12 2004
By 
Randy Keehn (Williston, ND United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe (Paperback)
I read "The Last 100 Days" shortly after it came out when I was still in my mid-teens. I was fascinated with the many stories that were strewn together within the events that were the final days of the Third Reich. It was a real page-turner for me and I enjoyed the mutliple perspectives; Russian, German, Western Allied. Over the years I have read other books that dealt in part with this subject. However, I always looked back on "The Last 100 Days" as the real authority on the subject. Much of what happened over the next 50 years had its' beginnings in these last 100 days and John Toland does an excellent job of explaining that. Anyone interested in either WWII or the Cold War should read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars HIGHLY READABLE & HISTORICALLY ACCURATE, July 10 2003
By 
MONTGOMERY (WASHINGTON, DC - U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe (Paperback)
John Toland brings a rich immediacy with this book. You feel like an eyewitness watching events unfold, whether it be in an Allied prisoner of war camp in Eastern Germany, in the Fuehrerbunker, at the conference tables among diplomats and generals, or on the front lines as the Third Reich enters its death throes.
As always, Mr. Toland is very meticulous in the type of research he brings to bear in this book. Once again, he has written a highly readable and historically comprehensive work. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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