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Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940 Hardcover – December 4, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her debut nonfiction account, British historian Gaskin spotlights the heart of London on the night of December 29, 1940, when Adolf Hitler tried to convince Britain the war was lost by burning London to the ground. Gaskin draws on published and unpublished interviews, letters, diaries and memoirs to reconstruct that night from the words of those who experienced it. Observers like American correspondent Edward R. Murrow, BBC announcers and Fleet Street journalists, played their parts, as did RAF fighter pilots and army antiaircraft crews. But the heart and soul of Gaskin's story comes from the ordinary Londoners who endured the raid in improvised shelters, defying prognostications of mass panic, and those who took to the streets, fighting fires, driving ambulances and rescuing survivors. Air raid defense was still in the stage of improvisation, and its men and women learned-and died-on the job. From the recollections of one terrifying night of the London Blitz, Gaskin fashions a refreshing, dramatic narrative that brings to life a city's wartime heroism and stoicism.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

One of World War II's iconic photographs silhouettes London's St. Paul's Cathedral against a sea of fire, which invites the image of Britain standing alone and defiant. Gaskin digs into the person-in-the-street experience of the German air raid during which the picture was taken to gauge what the popular mood was under air attack. She finds in diaries and memoirs a spectrum of sentiments from fatalism to fear, but she also finds much to support the impression that solidarity was genuine, with people doing their best to withstand Hitler by carrying on with ordinary life. For instance, as the bombs fall, moviegoers continue watching The Great Dictator. Where did such imperturbability come from? Perhaps from an appreciation of history, of London as the center of a global empire: the author develops that notion with historical allusions to venerable buildings and their fire wardens, for the German target was the 2,000-year-old center of the metropolis, the City of London. With block-by-block detail, Gaskin richly portrays London's civic personality during one terrible night in wartime. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (December 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014040
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Matlock on February 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The German air attacks on England fall into about four main segments: Early, The Battle of Britain, The Blitz, and Later. Early was the almost casual air raids made by Germany. The Battle of Britain is usually considered to be from 9 July to 31 October 1940 and was the period when the Germans attempted to wipe out the RAF. The Blitz is the attack on British cities and is between 7 September 1940 and 16 May 1941. After that the later attacks were sporatic until the V-1 and V-2 weapons came into use.

This book is a detailed look at one day during the Blitz, December 29, 1940. This day saw the most devastating raid of the Blitz which caused what has been called The Second Great Fire of London. A famous photograph shows St Paul's Cathedral enshrouded in smoke, this photograph is used on the front cover of the book.

All in all, some 1,500 fires were started by the German incindary bombs, somewhere around 3,000 (no one knows for sure) civilians were killed. While these numbers are minor when compared to what came later in the war, the picture of St. Pauls, and the on the scene reporting by Edward R. Murrow was instrumental in convincing the Americans to enter the war.

This is not a historical report on the Blitz. It is a detailed report on what happened one night as told through the voices of people who were there.
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Format: Hardcover
Sadly the reviewer below seems to have been right; hardback copies of this book are currently residing in the "cut out bins" of bookshops across London. A shame, because I very much enjoyed reading it. At the same time I think I can see some problems with it. As a general reader I was quite interested in reading a book about the London Blitz as a whole; I was not sure that I wanted to read a minute by minute account of one night only, no matter how serious. The slightly (well, I thought so) gimmicky list of all the fatalities that night together with their addresses in the appendix seemed to threaten an unwanted degree of detail. In fact, I need not have worried because the book does give a good general account to the background of the whole ariel campaign against London. The author puts forward the night of the 29th December 1940 in London as one of the key nodal dates in history, like drawing a piece of rich fabric through a ring, everything seems to lead up to and then away from this moment. The description of the build up to the attack itself is very effective and when the conflagration starts people do show extraordinary courage and devotion to duty. I still can't quite get my head round the fact that in the middle of the bombardment there were taxis and buses running and that people came into work the next day. Amazing. If I had one criticism it would be that having given quite a lot of background context to what happened before the Blitz we don't learn very much about what happened afterwards. There were other incendiary attacks but why was something on the scale of 12/29 not tried again? What was the response in Germany to what had happened in London? How did the London Blitz relate to the subsequent Allied attacks on German targets? What about the V weapons?Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perhaps I expected a little too much from this book. As an Englishman born at the very end of the war I still seek answers to the devastation I saw as a child and didn't receive then. I was hoping that with the journalistic skills of the author that this was going to be the definitive work on the bombing of our capital city, London. I found the anecdotal nature of this work distracting from it's stated primary intention. As with all criticism however, it is just the critics opinion and in this case this critics disappointment, but there is a lot to be gained by reading this work for anyone who had no knowledge of the blitz and who would be more accepting of it's format.
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