“Inferno” offers a succinct overview of the greatest armed conflict the world has ever known in order to meditate upon the impact World War II had on the humans of that world. To do this the author keeps to a minimum discussions of troop movements and tactics, except where such details provide context or insight into how those decisions (or new technologies) impacted the people directly involved.
This is a heartbreaking version of a story we all think we know. But the author has the advantage of the passing of enough time to allow him to describe — without flinching — the good, the bad and the ugly of human behavior in wartime. It’s all here: the familiar campaigns, the famous leaders, the commanders notable for their cruelty, egotism or greatness. But the details of the when and where are held together by the glue of personal accounts from individuals caught up in the war, from every side and every walk of life. This is a book of snippets that paint a larger portrait, like a pointillist canvas: up close the bits of anecdotal information seem too small to describe such a global event, but in their cumulative power they enable the reader to grasp the enormity of this war that was nevertheless experienced one personal moment at a time.
I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not a “war buff”. This is, indeed, a book about human experience. The humans you’ll read about just happen to have been living, fighting, longing and dying during a global conflict.