• No Simple Victory

  • World War II in Europe, 1939-1945
  • By: Norman Davies
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 20 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (510 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

If history really belongs to the victor, what happens when there's more than one side declaring victory? That's the conundrum Norman Davies unravels in his groundbreaking book No Simple Victory. Far from being a revisionist history, No Simple Victory instead offers a clear-eyed reappraisal, untangling and setting right the disparate claims made by America, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union in order to get at the startling truth.

In detailing the clash of political philosophies that drove the war's savage engine, Davies also examines how factors as diverse as technology, economics, and morale played dynamic roles in shaping battles, along with the unsung yet vital help of Poland, Greece, and Ukraine (which suffered the highest number of casualties). And while the Allies resorted to bombing enemy civilians to sow terror, the most damning condemnation is saved for the Soviet Union, whose glossed-over war crimes against British soldiers and its own people prove that Communism and Nazism were two sides of the same brutal coin.

No Simple Victory is an unparalleled work that will fascinate not only history buffs but anyone who is interested in discovering the reality behind what Davies refers to as "the frozen perspective of the winners' history".

©2007 Norman Davies (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Enormously readable....This will explode all your ideas about the 'Good War.' " (Details)
"This is a self-consciously contrary book, cutting against the grain of much self-congratulatory Western writing since 1945." (London Sunday Telegraph)
"Davies' topical approach judiciously surveys the military, economic and political aspects of the war....His interpretations rest on solid scholarly work." (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about No Simple Victory

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Best Account of WWII in Europe

Norman Davies previously wrote a textbook in use in entry level university courses about the history of Europe. His persistent theme is that western European history is overemphasized and eastern European history is ignored.

In this book, the scope of the war is presented from the view of the real participants. Davies takes apart the notion that the Germans and Russians were the major participants and chronicles the war from the standpoint of Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries which were the battleground for most of the war. These countries were either brutalized by Stalin before the war or invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939 after the pact between Hitler and Stalin. The losses of these countries are put in a context of losses of other participants. The Soviet style of fighting is described where the KGB formed blocking battalions which shot anyone who retreated, regardless if the soldier was wounded or out of ammunition. After WWII, any repatriated Soviet POW was imprisoned in the Gulag. Stalin fought civil wars during WWII and the aftermath of these wars is now being played out in places like Chechnya.

Davies does not ignore other theatres of operation or other participants in the war. He assess the fighting ability of the various countries, for instance showing that Britain had an awesome navy but a deficient army.

The book is topical, eg, Davies uses headings like armaments, civilians, aftermath, collaborators, etc.

This is the best book I read in 2007. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It will change the way you view WWII.

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliantly narrated.

Although little in this volume can be described as revolutionary, there is a great deal of insightful commentary and fresh perspective. The central thesis of the book - that the war in Europe was won chiefly by the USSR ("Saving Private Ryan" notwithstanding), and that the USSR was, in some ways, as bad as the regime it defeated - is probably under-appreciated in the US, but the point does not seem particularly controversial.

Whatever the merits of the book may be, what made it incredibly enjoyable was, without a doubt, the voice of Simon Vance. The tone and tempo of his reading were perfect. The scorn dripping from his voice as he speaks of those treated too generously by history, in particular Stalin (the "monstah"), is nothing short of delicious.

Good book, narrated brilliantly.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Balanced and well-crafted

Comprehensive coverage of WW2 in Europe. In addition to the standard fare, the author does a nice job comparing and contrasting the Soviet and Nazi repression and atrocities. He also discusses many interesting side issues..from wartime poetry to the experience of Poles who made it from the Gulags to India and then service with the British.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Must Read for WWII Buffs

This book will open your eyes to realities about the war and the relative sizes of various campaigns and battles. For example The Battle of the Bulge is put in the proper perspective relative to MUCH larger battles in the USSR. This is not revisionist history, which I abhor. This is rather a recalibration of our perceptions of the war in a way that makes our understanding of it all the greater. This book also is very unflattering to Stalin, so don't worry that there is a hidden pro-Soviet agenda here.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding read

A terrific book about WWII in Europe, taken from the prespective of the eastern front. Full of interesting insight into aspects of the war that the US/UK students often miss. Excellent reader that keeps a long book interesting.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Easy to listen, full of facts

Much of what is said in the book should by now be common knowledge - the barbarity of the Eastern Front and Stalin's and Hitler's crimes. On the other hand, the book is an easy listen and the writing is personal and witty. Simon Vance does an excellent job as a narrator. The organization of the book is somewhat disconcerting, as the author first offers a short synopsis of the war, mainly from the Eastern Front point of view, and then goes on to dissect several aspects of the conflict, sometimes in minute and often repetitive details. The book is full of facts and figures. I bought the paperback edition just for the notes and bibliography. On the other hand, I was bothered by small mistakes that cast doubt of the veracity of some of the sources. For example, Vlasov was hung with 11 others at the Lubyanka, not shot. The Amber Room was at Catherine's Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, not at Peterhof Palace. At any rate, I did enjoyed listening to the book and recommend it to others, in particular those who wish to have a more balanced view of the war.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

Such an interesting book and an excellent job of narrating it by Simon Vance. In this book, Norman Davies has no problem looking at the facts and stories to show just how oppressive the Soviet party was. I would recommend this book to any reader (or listener as the case may be) who is interested in a new perspective of World War II history. Well worth the money!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Facts and figures galore

This book is for anyone that wants to know the real facts and figures on WWII. Especially the figures.

What a masterpiece that is also extremely well read by the narrator.

Buy it. Unless you do not like (the real) details you will not be disappointed.........

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Not your high school history lesson

No Simple Victory takes the you beyond The Greatest Generation and Anglo-centric history of the second world war. It looks at the Eastern front and the soviet role. The Nazi Reich was evil but it was not the only evil in the world. This books takes an objective look at all sides and the decisions that were made. There is a particular emphasis on Stalin and the Soviet forces, especially how their conduct was often as bad if not worse than the Nazi's.
History is written by the winners but that isn't always the end of the story, the author looks deeper and tells some uncomfortable truths.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great overview of World War 2, but ...

In terms of books on World War 2 No Simple Victory is unique in that it is not just a description of the battles of the war but rather a look at how the war affected all aspects of society. The battles of the war are described, but occupy probably less than 10 percent of the book while the rest of the book describes the belligerent societies and examines how the war affected those people and societies. A complete list of the topics covered would be too extensive for this review, but subjects include politics, arts, documentaries, movies, books, military discipline, civilian police, prisons, POW camps, military intelligence, secret projects, partisan warfare, heroic and non-heroic actions and much, much more. It is the most complete look at how the war affected the period of World War 2 and beyond that I have ever read and, as such, it is unparalleled in its scope and completeness and no other book I have read approaches it. The writing conveys the importance of each of the subjects covered, the book never loses its central theme and I was never bored. It is simply a wonderful book about an important subject, but is not without its flaws.

The first is that it assumes that the reader has no knowledge of the character of the main political figures, or of their systems. A large part of beginning of the book is spent describing why Stalin was as big a monster as Hitler, and why the Soviet Union was as much a totalitarian system as that of Nazi Germany, but anyone who has spent any time reading about the period from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War should already know about the Soviet Gulags, The Terror of the 1930s, the random arrests and killings, the political purges and the baseless accusations that were part of normal life in the Soviet Union under Stalin. It seems a waste of space and time to repeat what is probably common knowledge at such great length for those who would read a book like this one.

The second is that Mr Davies, as a historian, seems almost obsessed with the idea that museums, monuments, and other displays concerning the war should address the war in its entirety rather than just the local interest in the war. While I understand why a historian would believe this, Mr Davies seems to take no notice of the fact that people are most interested in that part of the war that directly affected them, their family, those that they know, or the location where they are at the time. Americans are more interested in how the war affected America than how it affected Poland, the French are more interested in how the war affected France and so on. A visitor to St Petersburg in Russia can visit a war memorial which describes the long siege of the city during the war, but which does not describe any of the other battles in the then Soviet Union, and all of this is normal. While a museum dedicated to the war in its entirety is certainly a worthy endeavor, people are most concerned about things that directly or indirectly affect them, and that is only to be expected. Mr Davies spends far too much time berating people for behavior that is normal.

The third is that this book describes the war in Europe only, and does not even touch on the war in the Pacific except when it is absolutely essential. It is not the fact that the book is about the European theater of the war that is bothersome, but that Mr Davies’ concentration on Europe causes him to make statements that seem misleading. For example he discusses how the Soviet Union fielded many more troops than the US in proportion to the population, but discounts the entire US war effort int he Pacific which tied up enormous amounts of both men and materiel. One of the reasons that the US landing in Normandy only involved about 150,000 troops on D-Day is that both men and landing craft were also needed in the Pacific and they could not be in two places at the same time. Another is that the enormous amount of war materiel that the US was producing for the Allies required that a large number of people had to work in the armaments industry and thus were not soldiers, sailors or airmen.

This list is not complete - there are other ares that I found mildly annoying - but this book is the best overall view of the European Theater of the war that I have ever read and I would not want this review to imply otherwise. The narration is superb, the subject matter important and the overall conclusions of the book essential to understanding the war. Highly recommended, but with some noted caveats.

4 people found this helpful