- Publisher: Bantam Books (January 2000)
- ISBN-10: 0553103490
- ISBN-13: 978-0553103496
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.1 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,935,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Last 100 Days Paperback – January, 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
All the main characters have their turn on Toland's stage, whether they be American and Russian generals calculating the mileage separating them from their goal, or high-ranking Nazis twisting and turning in the net that is slowly closing around them. A fast-paced book, matching the tempo of the times, "The Last 100 Days" is one of the best books about the end of the Second World War to be published so far.