This is not a book for the squeamish, but neither is it war porn, a mere catalogue of hideous death. McKay recounts the story of Dresden’s destruction through the recollections of those who miraculously survived, creating a kaleidoscope of experience enhanced by the deep affection these people felt for their city. His prose, even when describing gruesome destruction, is often breathtakingly beautiful. This superbly rendered story allows the reader entry into the soul of an extraordinary city.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator
So where, in the end, do McKay’s sympathies lie? With all sides, it seems. “War”, he writes, “creates its own nauseous gravity, and towards the end of a six-year conflict, with millions dead, all sides exhausted, could it be that these city bombings were not vengeful or consciously merciless, but ever more desperate reflexive attacks launched to make the other side simply stop?” This, in my view, is too generous. Harris was convinced that area bombing helped to shorten the war – ignoring all evidence to the contrary – and, unlike Churchill, he never regretted Dresden.
The author, who achieved bestsellerdom with his earlier account of Bletchley Park’s codebreakers, has here written a much more troubled and troubling book, about one of the most controversial events of the Second World War...Some 25,000 people perished in the firestorm that raged through the city. I have never seen it better described. McKay writes of the fate of the magnificent domed Lutheran Frauenkirche on the evening of February 14, amid “the fires that had washed through the city... As dusk fell the soot-blackened sandstone could in places be seen glowing with a dull ruby light... There was a sound like that of an old ship creaking and yawing, as though swaying in the night”, until at last the entire structure collapsed.
McKay’s book grips by its passion and originality — there is no “wizard prang stuff” here.
Now in the spirit of the Middlebrook accounts comes this most comprehensive, revealing and moving book of them all, Sinclair McKay’s Dresden: The Fire and the Darkness. This is a substantial addition to the genre because it describes in almost unbearable detail the deliberate destruction of a major city, a beautiful and historic place the size of Manchester, one that had little or no military value, and was more or less undefended. It was crammed with refugees fleeing the advance of the Soviet Army. No single preceding book on the bombing war has so succinctly summed up the complex responses felt by people directly involved, but also by the world at large.