Readers who know Max Hastings the dyspeptic opinion-monger - indeed, some who have read his narrower military histories - may be surprised or awed by this book.
Not another doorstop chronicle of the Second World War, this is his masterpiece: humane, sceptical, vivid, authoritative, quite free of jingoism. He delivers "bottom-up... experiences", of civilians and combatants alike.
From him you might expect the panoramic set-pieces, the grand strategy and landmark battles of 1939-1945. He draws superbly too on diaries, journals and reports.
The epic closes without a whiff of triumphalism, leaving just a great sadness behind.