Alone
Combining epic history with rich family stories, Michael Korda chronicles the outbreak of World War II and the great events that led to Dunkirk.In an absorbing work peopled with world leaders, generals, and ordinary citizens who fought on both sides of World War II, Alone brings to resounding life perhaps the most critical year of twentieth-century history. For, indeed, May 1940 was a month like no other, as the German war machine blazed into France while the supposedly impregnable Maginot Line crumbled, and Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister in an astonishing political drama as Britain, isolated and alone, faced a triumphant Nazi Germany. Against this vast historical canvas, Michael Korda relates what happened and why, and also tells his own story, that of a six-year-old boy in a glamorous movie family who would himself be evacuated. Alone is a work that seamlessly weaves a family memoir into an unforgettable account of a political and military disaster redeemed by the evacuation of more than 300,000 men in four days―surely one of the most heroic episodes of the war.

Alone Details

TitleAlone
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 19th, 2017
PublisherLiveright
ISBN-139781631491320
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, War, World War II, European History

Alone Review

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    January 1, 1970
    ”Side by side...the British and French people have advanced to rescue not Europe only but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history. Behind them gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races, the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians--upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend unbroken by even a star of hope, unless we conquer--as conquer we must--as conquer we shall. ”Side by side...the British and French people have advanced to rescue not Europe only but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history. Behind them gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races, the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians--upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend unbroken by even a star of hope, unless we conquer--as conquer we must--as conquer we shall.”----Winston Churchill Winston Churchill addressing the nation, nay the world, he was trying to save.If you ever feel the need to be inspired about humanity again, take the time to read or listen to the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill. He was not only a gifted writer, but a brilliant orator. He could move even his most ardent enemies to tears. I can’t imagine the world would be the place it is today if Churchill had not become Prime Minister of Great Britain at one of the most critical eras in the history of the World. There were many moments, especially during the early part of the war, when he took the fears of his whole nation on his back and molded that fear into an unshakeable resolve. ”We shall fight on beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender and if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old.”----Winston ChurchillMichael Korda was a young boy of privilege during WW2. The actress Merle Oberon was his aunt. The great director and producer Alexander Korda was his uncle. His father was an art director in the movies, and his mother was an actress. When the war started coming to the shores of England, the Kordas were in America making movies, like That Hamilton Woman (1941), as propaganda films to raise morale in England. There is no better way to bring a tear to the eye of an Englishman than to evoke the name of Horatio Nelson. The movie, which stars Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, is actually really good, so do watch it if you get a chance. Korda’s mother always felt guilty that they did not suffer in London with the rest of their friends, as if avoiding the pain and danger was somehow shirking the duty of her heritage. A few years ago, I read this diary of a German soldier, and he wrote about how the Germans had such a hard time catching up with the French because they were fleeing like rabbits in front of them, but they knew instantly when they hit the British line. They weren’t running. They were there to fight. The blitzkrieg was blowing through countries within days that should have taken months. The French had one of the largest standing armies in the world, and the Germans were going through it like tinfoil. ”It was not for lack of brave officers and soldiers that the French Army was collapsing; it was more because of the fatal strategic misjudgment, paralysis of will, helpless pessimism, and political intrigue at the top, combined with certain areas in which the French armed forces were poorly equipped for a modern war, especially an inadequate and obsolete air force.” There was the lure of Paris, a mere 30 miles in their rear where their beautiful girlfriends/wives, good food, and bottles of wine were waiting for them. Korda commented that the French soldiers also felt like they were doing all the dying for the British. This bothers me given the fact that these French soldiers were defending their own soil. If that was their attitude, I can see why morale was an issue. I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been to see a division of Panzer tanks coming down the hill towards me.There were opportunities. The German tank blitzkrieg was running so far ahead of the German foot soldiers that some organization on the part of the French could have punched holes in the German line and cut the tanks off from their support and inflicted some defeats on an army that was starting to feel unbeatable. When I watch football and the defense is blitzing the quarterback, I always think about the opportunities that overcommitment from the defense has for a steely nerved quarterback who can hang in the pocket long enough to find those open receivers. The French needed that one guy who could provide the leadership to achieve victory out of defeat. Meanwhile, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) were doing all they could to slow the Germans long enough to find a way back to England. No one had expected the French army to be crushed so easily. As the BEF slowly compressed backwards onto the beaches of Dunkirk, the situation was dire; in fact, if the Germans managed to capture the British Army, the war would most certainly be over. The appeasers in the British government would gain the power to negotiate a peace settlement, which would have been dire for France, but would have most certainly gutted the British of their pride and joy...the navy. Hitler would have wanted that glittering array of ships.Who would have stood in the way of Adolf Hitler? The title of this book is apt…Alone; that is the situation that Britain found herself in, with the flower of her army trapped on a beach a mere thirty miles from the white cliffs of Dover. If you haven’t seen Dunkirk (2017) directed by Christopher Nolan, please do so. There are scenes in that movie that are going to haunt me for the rest of my life. It is simply brilliant. The quiet, the building tension, the desperation, and the moments of true heroics are just so splendidly balanced to leave the viewer completely emotionally wrung out by the ending credits. I’ve always been emotional about Dunkirk because I feel it is quite possibly the grandest moment in world history. When the call is made to the British civilians to go get their boys off the beaches of Dunkirk, 850 crafts, a flotilla of shallow draft boats that could reach the beach, were launched. Everything that floats.I can only image what it must have looked like to see those tiny boats appearing on the horizon. They must have looked so fragile bobbing out on that big ocean. They helped save 198,000 British soldiers and 140,000 French soldiers. The Little Boats of Dunkirk.Korda will take you through it all, step by step. You will experience Churchill’s battles in Parliament and the rearguard action of those who slowed the German advance to give the men on Dunkirk beach a chance. The book is loaded with photographs, sprinkled throughout the text the way I like them best. Korda will also show you the important, baffling moment when Adolf Hitler... blinks... that allows Britain the slenderest of hopes of fighting on. They had to hold on until the New World could once again come and save the Old World. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
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  • Anne Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    Michael Korda's new book Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat into Victory examines the the early days of World War II. Alone covers a lot of events, mostly from the British point of view but also French and German: Chamberlain's failed appeasement policy, France and England reluctantly being drawn back into war, Churchill becoming Prime Minister, Germany rewriting the use of tanks in warfare, conflicting personalities and agendas among allied generals. All leading up to the evacuation Michael Korda's new book Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat into Victory examines the the early days of World War II. Alone covers a lot of events, mostly from the British point of view but also French and German: Chamberlain's failed appeasement policy, France and England reluctantly being drawn back into war, Churchill becoming Prime Minister, Germany rewriting the use of tanks in warfare, conflicting personalities and agendas among allied generals. All leading up to the evacuation of over 300,000 English and French troops from the beach of Dunkirk, late May 1940. Scattered throughout the researched history are personal stories and a bit of family history as Korda reflects on his own memories as a 6 year old in a wealthy family of actors and movie makers.Based on the book blurb for Alone, I had high hopes this would be a World War II history along the lines of Lynne Olson's Last Hope Island- meticulously researched, written with vivid detail and an eye for making individuals and their experiences leap off the page and into your mind. Alone is certainly well researched. I now have a much better understanding of the creation and purpose of the famed French Maginot Line after reading the early part of Alone. The research into the French and British military leaders, their different approaches, their conflicts among themselves, and the difficulties they had in communicating with each other (not only with radios, and phones, but personal dislikes that often meant one man in charge wasn't on speaking terms with another) was well done and gave you a sense of what the chaos on the ground must have been like. How they accomplished any successes with so many personal clashes going on is (as is the case in most military histories I've read recently) amazing.The Korda family moments interspersed within Alone were occasionally interesting, but generally felt like they belonged in a separate book. Instead of showing what life on the home front was normally like, more often than not they showed how money could soften difficulties. Korda frequently mentions how his uncle Alex worked with Churchill and the government to make his (then current) movies into subtle propaganda designed to gain the sympathy and support of the United States. The Thief of Baghdad and That Hamilton Woman were eventually made in the US to seem like 'regular' big budget Hollywood movies instead of British propaganda. But the reader never gets an idea of what that meant, or if it worked- which would have made me much more interested in it. The actual telling of the evacuation from Dunkirk only takes place in the last 100 or so pages of Alone and often seemed scattered and disorienting. I'm sure that this is what the people on the ground experienced at the time, but I was hoping for a more coherent and understandable account to this interesting and unique moment in history.Overall I was disappointed in Alone. Instead of being a vivid account of a slice of history it was often repetitive, and choppily written. Personal family stories didn't blend in to give us a better feeling for the time but mostly jarred the reader from the military narrative. Military leaders and personalities blended together, making it hard to remember who was who (often even what side they were on) and even Winston Churchill didn't spring to life here. The evacuation story itself almost seemed like an afterthought, with a few good, clear moments. People who have seen Chris Nolan's 2017 movie Dunkirk will recognize the inspiration for the "sea" story of The Moonstone, and find the original story ( in my opinion) even more interesting and gripping- one of the few moments I could say that about Alone.I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviewFor my full review, go to:https://bookwyrmreader.blogspot.com/2...
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  • Ben
    January 1, 1970
    For those who saw the recent movie "Dunkirk" and thought that it was exciting, I recommend that you read " Alone" by Michael Korda. I saw that movie and was appalled at the simplified, dumbed-down portrayal of what occurred there. There was very little sense of the disaster that had befallen the allied armies and the horrifying conditions of the beaches of Dunkirk. The movie showed some little straffing and bombing , not the almost constant German attacks , and gave no information as to what had For those who saw the recent movie "Dunkirk" and thought that it was exciting, I recommend that you read " Alone" by Michael Korda. I saw that movie and was appalled at the simplified, dumbed-down portrayal of what occurred there. There was very little sense of the disaster that had befallen the allied armies and the horrifying conditions of the beaches of Dunkirk. The movie showed some little straffing and bombing , not the almost constant German attacks , and gave no information as to what had happened to put the Brisish forces in such a dire situation. The movie was, as most movies are these days, a mosh-mash of SFX, sketchy history, juvenile writing and hammy acting.This book is a necessary antidote to that."Alone" by Michael Korda, is a well-written, easily accessible history that covers the events leading to the beginning of the war, the speed and devasting power of the German army on the ground and in the air and the tenacious , though doomed, efforts of the allies to stop their advance. The book is filled with personal stories of both General's and common and common soldiers, including the famously idiosyncratic British trait of coolness under pressure ( a soldier reading a Gertrude Stein novel in a ditch while being shelled is one I recall). Churchill, often idolized , is in the book is shown as a master politician, cheerleader, negotiator and fiddler with the General Staff's war plans ( a trait he shared with Hitler, by the way, though not to Hitler's extent.) Churchill maneuvers politically in Paliament to keep Britian' s morale up even as the army retreats. He is shown as every bit the tenacious bull dog, a trait shared with his fighting men. Truly a man who was where he had to be , when he had to be.But this is not a political book. Nor is it a military history. It is a popular history written to be enjoyed by everyone with an interest in what, why and how Dunkirk came about and why it was so important to the long war ahead. There are plenty of picutures and maps for the reader. Mr. Korda also inserts brief , but interesting vignettes of his family life . He is a seven year old son of a family of Hungarian background all of who were involved in the movie industry . He uncle, Alexander, was a director who created films in Britain and the US , not to mention France and Germany before the war. An interesting aside was that the Korda family gave financial assaisstance to Churchill when during his "out" years by finding movie script jobs for him, to be rewarded while he was PM by his, or the British film board, financing some Hollywood movies / pro- British, of course. Korda's production company was also used by British secret agents as a front from which they worked to speed US involve the into the war. And that is just a small bit of what you may learn in "Alone."So get the book "Alone" , sit down , read it and see how enjoyable history can be in the hands of a very good writer with a great story to tell..
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  • Regina Cattus
    January 1, 1970
    I got an ARC of "Alone" in a Goodreads giveaway and wasn't completely sure what to expect."Alone" is a brilliant book full of pictures, facts and autobiographical tidbits about the first stretch of WW2. I know some stuff about the wars, but this book made me realise just how much more there is to it. The complicated politics and impressive cast of vivid characters like, but not at all limited to, Churchill. This book dips into them, revealing them each with a wry and observant eye. I thought the I got an ARC of "Alone" in a Goodreads giveaway and wasn't completely sure what to expect."Alone" is a brilliant book full of pictures, facts and autobiographical tidbits about the first stretch of WW2. I know some stuff about the wars, but this book made me realise just how much more there is to it. The complicated politics and impressive cast of vivid characters like, but not at all limited to, Churchill. This book dips into them, revealing them each with a wry and observant eye. I thought the war was just cut and dry. I thought Dunkirk was a victory. I thought France held out for longer. I thought a lot of things that were wrong, and this book has corrected them. There were some parts that dragged and things that were repeated, but all in all I thought it to be an excellent retelling of the war up to Dunkirk.
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  • Karen Troutman
    January 1, 1970
    Review for Alone: Britain, Dunkirk and Defeat into Victory by Michael KordaReview written by Robin AsherAlone: Britain, Dunkirk and Defeat into Victory reads like a history textbook and a diary combined. Korda combines his and his family’s stories with the historic details of the first months of World War II through the battle of Dunkirk. At the time of the war, Korda was six years old. While the history of the war is clear and concise, it will be the details of Korda and his famous movie-indust Review for Alone: Britain, Dunkirk and Defeat into Victory by Michael KordaReview written by Robin AsherAlone: Britain, Dunkirk and Defeat into Victory reads like a history textbook and a diary combined. Korda combines his and his family’s stories with the historic details of the first months of World War II through the battle of Dunkirk. At the time of the war, Korda was six years old. While the history of the war is clear and concise, it will be the details of Korda and his famous movie-industry family that will hold the reader’s interest. The images sprinkled throughout the text allow the reader to make connections visually. Overall, Alone is a challenging read that would keep the reader interested throughout.
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  • Anthony Gosling
    January 1, 1970
    A strange title as Britain isn't in her own until the last pages of the book but nevertheless an intriguing recounting of the first months of the war ending in the defeat turned into victory that is Dunkirk. Unique in that this famous son of famous parents recounts something of his earliest memories in the midst of impressive detail from these often forgotten early days of the Second World War leading up to the equally famous evacuation. The author seems to run out of steam towards the end but t A strange title as Britain isn't in her own until the last pages of the book but nevertheless an intriguing recounting of the first months of the war ending in the defeat turned into victory that is Dunkirk. Unique in that this famous son of famous parents recounts something of his earliest memories in the midst of impressive detail from these often forgotten early days of the Second World War leading up to the equally famous evacuation. The author seems to run out of steam towards the end but the attention given to earlier events is well worth your time and the whole book is vibrantly written.
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  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    As a disclaimer: I received an ARC of "Alone" from the publisher. I can't say that I read a lot of non-fiction regarding war but this was very informative and well written. If you're interested in learning more about World War II, with an emphasis on England's part in the war, this is definitely the book for you.
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  • Martin
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Norton for the ARC. Excellent overview of the initial British parries of WWII from diplomatic failures, through the most heroic retreat in the history of modern warfare. Read this to have a better understanding of the Nolan film
  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    An excellent account by the author that chronicalizes the events and heroism of Britain during World War II. When France surrendered in 1940, England stood alone but Prime Minister Winston Churchill urged England to stay strong and defend herself against the German onslaught.
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  • PWRL
    January 1, 1970
    SM
  • Patrick Ewing
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent.
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