World War 2

Chaps v. Japs

Does anyone do derring-do anymore? Here’s the real thing. On Christmas Day 1941, despite Churchill’s call to fight to the…

The Ritz in the Blitz

‘It was like a drug, a disease,’ said the legendary Ritz employee Victor Legg of the institution he served for…


Strategies for survival

This is an account of the multiplicity of ways in which men ‘stole back time from their captors through creativity’ in the prisoner-of-war camps of Europe and the Far East.


Goodbye to Berlin

Peter Parker is beguiled by a novel approach to the lives of Europe’s intellectual elite in flight from Nazi Germany

A conflict of loyalty

What was life like in Hitler’s Germany? This question has long fascinated authors and readers alike, as books like Alone in Berlin, The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief bear witness.

Pastures new

On 20 September 1949, five days after his election as Chancellor of the newly created German Federal Republic, Konrad Adenauer addressed the Bundestag: ‘Much unhappiness and much damage’, he told the deputies, ‘has been caused by denazification .

Can it be described?

Where was God in the Holocaust? This question confounds even learned rabbis, so let’s not linger there.

A war of nutrition

The long summer that led up to the last days of peace in Europe in 1939 — the vigil of the Nazi assault on Poland on 1 September and the ensuing Phoney War — gave little hint of the storm to come.

Memories of wartime

Bells did not ring out on Christmas Day in 1940. If they had, it would have been a sign that we had been invaded.


Something filthy by return

Gerard Woodward’s Nourishment opens in second world war London.


Days of wine and shrapnel

Virginia Cowles was a 27-year-old American journalist working for the Hearst newspapers when she went to Spain for the first time.


From void to void, with time to kill

Just as the slaughter in the trenches of Flanders and northern France gave birth to the tragic verses of Wilfred Owen, so the experience of bombing and being bombed between 1940 and 1945 generated its own major poetry in Britain and the USA.

A dream to fly

Undeniably the Hawker Hurricane has suffered the fate of the less pretty sister.


All eyes and ears

Both of these books aim, in their different ways, to cater for Britain’s long-standing obsession with espionage and other forms of political and military intelligence.


The French connection

If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it’s this one.


L’homme qui dit non

The study of history is a subversive calling.


Reverting to type

While I was living in Tokyo, a Japanese girl friend of mine fell in love with a British investment banker.


Might and wrong

‘Was all this the realisation of our war aims?’, Malcolm Muggeridge asked as he surveyed the desolation of Berlin in May 1945.


Aces high

Seventy years after the RAF repelled the Luftwaffe, the Battle of Britain continues to have a powerful resonance.


Paranoia and empty promises

It has taken more than half a century, but at last the Anglophone world has woken up to the fact that 20th-century communist history makes a superb backdrop for fiction.


The reality behind the novels

‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’.


The lady from Shanghai

By the middle of the second world war, May-ling Soong was the world’s most powerful woman, at the centre of events in China’s history and its relationship with the USA.


Riding for a fall

Many attempts have been made to portray the ‘Roaring Twenties’, or the ‘Gilded Nineties’, or the something-or-other sometime-else, but in truth the 1930s is one of the few decades that fits neatly into a nice round summary, with the Great Depression at one end, the second world war at the other.


Survivor syndrome

In late middle age, William Styron was struck by a disabling illness, when everything seemed colourless, futile and empty to him.


Macabre success story

Ben Macintyre has taken a well-known story of wartime deception, embellished it, and shown that it was even more ingenious and even more risky than we had all supposed.