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Posted: Friday, December 14, 2007 10:00 pm

Title: "Blitz: the Story of December 29, 1940"

Author: Margaret Gaskin

Publisher: Harcourt

Price: $27

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Synopsis: On December 29, 1940, over a period of three-and-a-quarter hours, Germany dropped 22,068 incendiary bombs and 400 high-explosive bombs on a square mile of London in an attempt to terrorize Britain into surrender. A firestorm resulted, termed the Second Great Fire of London. This square mile housed the communications and financial hearts of the empire. How London coped with the bombing and firestorm and then moved on makes a compelling read.

The author describes the situation of Britain as the primary target of Germany at the time. Her economic status was nearing desperate. Britain was receiving some assistance with the air raids from Greece. The U.S. had not yet entered the war, but was selling planes and munitions to Britain. Churchill's appeals to the U.S. for assistance are woven into the narrative. Franklin D. Roosevelt's fire side chat of December 29th in which he responded to Churchill is included in an appendix.

Above all, the book is about "London can take it!" and the British spirit of "carry on." Or as Churchill used to sign Notes: "KBO" ("Keep Buggering On.")

Author's strengths: The author made extensive use of the Imperial War Museum's collection of personal narratives providing direct observations of life in London during the Blitz. The reader gets first-hand reactions to the bombing and the progress of ordinary life. Additionally observations of journalists, including Ernie Pyle and Edward R. Murrow, are included. Fleet Street was very much in the heart of the bombed area.

Author's weaknesses: The author relates the stories of several people and families living in various parts of the city, but working in the square mile of the medieval walled city. More detailed maps would have been a help in localizing what was happening where.

Comments: Herbert Mason's famous photograph of the dome of St. Paul's serves as cover art for the book. The photograph was taken during the wee hours of the morning of December 30th with the fires still raging.

Andrea Woodruff is the supervising librarian at the Lodi Public Library. Each week, a member of the library staff reviews a recent book release for Lodi Living. Reviews are archived at http://www.lodi.gov/library">http://www.lodi.gov/library.

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