An emotionally stirring account of the single most devastating attack on London during the Blitz.
Mortimer offers an engaging, down-to-the-minute retelling of May 10–11, 1941, the night hundreds of German warplanes bombed London relentlessly, threatening Britain’s standing in the war. Part military history, part chronicle of survivors’ memories and part moving tribute to London, the result is reminiscent of Richard Collier’s The City That Would Not Die (1960), but is a captivating and important contribution in its own right. True to his journalistic roots, Mortimer opens by introducing a large cast of characters, most of whom he personally interviewed. The experiences of those who were in and around London that fateful night drive the narrative. Readers with some prior understanding of basic events and terminology of the war may have a slight advantage, though Mortimer offers great insight into the intricacies of World War II London, its population, physical layout, architecture and history, as well as the complexities of German and British warplanes and weaponry of the period. Occasional missteps (a Luftwaffe “major raid” is defined only on the final page, for example) do nothing to diminish the heartfelt testimony of survivors who, when paired with Mortimer’s dramatic renderings of what Londoners and German and British military men experienced, make for compelling non-fiction. Emphasis is placed on how fear, confusion and devastation were offset by the unprecedented ways in which Londoners came together to offer assistance. Mortimer’s focus is on people, but some of the most emotionally wrenching passages concern not the terrible loss of life, but the destruction of some of London’s most beloved architectural and historical treasures.
Reader-friendly, informative reporting—history that reads like a novel.