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Review: The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a definitive history of the Spanish Civil War. The book has been regarded by the Spanish themselves as one of the best-researched volumes on this dark period of turmoil in their country’s history. The breakdown of democracy saw the split of the nation and a leftist democratically elected government was forced to deal with the rise of a militaristic fascist rising headed by Franco. The precursor to World War 2, this civil war attracted the interests of the rising Fascist movement across Europe with the Caudillo’s forces being supplemented and supported by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. They got to test out their modern weaponry in the field of action and a lack of international support for the actual government left them with little alternative but to rely on the Soviet Union for their support. This led to the republicans being over-reliant on the Spanish communists who struggled to take over and erode democracy from their own angle, constantly infighting and vying for strength with the other elements of the Spanish left; the Anarchists and the POUM. This history details how all the events unfolded and describes how each of the key battles was won and lost. There was a ferociousness during this conflict which only civil wars attract. The horrors of modern war truly unfolded disasters such as Guernica only emphasised how critical air support had become. The German Condor Legion and their Meschersmitts, backed up by Italian Fiats, consistently demolished the Republican resistance and paved the way for an overall Nationalist victory. Poor military judgement, combined with Stalinist purges of even the more successful Russian generals, left the Republicans constantly making errors in their military tactics. The lack of proper international support (with the exception of the volunteer International Brigades), in particular from Britain led to the inevitable crushing of the elected government and their forces. Appeasement was in the air as Western politicians tried to avoid the inevitable European conflict that was brewing and the Spanish were sacrificed. It was a war of experimentation which left the Spanish people at the mercy of the violent forces which dominated the time. Franco consolidated his own power well and was relentless and unforgiving, not accepting any olive branch of peace when offered and pursuing an ultimate military victory so…

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Review: A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’d encountered Hemingway through his ‘Death in the Afternoon’ foray into bullfighting. I have always wanted to tackle some of his pure fiction and thought I’d delve into this shortish novel, with catchy title. I expected a book on war and the protagonist’s journey on the Italian front of World War 1 did not disappoint. The book is a romantic novel though and the blossoming love between soldier and nurse in the heat of conflict is a contrasting dichotomy that Hemingway weaves wonderfully in a myriad of descriptive prose. As the story progresses you find attachment to the characters and Hemingway will ever so suddenly sweep the carpet from underneath you and cast the direction into another unforeseen direction. The book builds and builds and we see the conflict dying down and as the birth of their firstborn approaches one can only expect a nice happy conclusion. War over and happiness ever after. But alas, the tragedy of the finale leaves one dumbstruck and aghast. It really does leave you hanging. The tragedy of war is matched with the tragedy of life and our main character’s heartbreak hits you as a reader with devastating effect. A fantastic read and I cannot wait until I grasp hold of the next Hemingway adventure. View all my reviews

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