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The Best of Books 2016


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Hirohito’s War: The Pacific War, 1941–1945

In This Review

Hirohito’s War: The Pacific War, 1941–1945
By Francis Pike
Bloomsbury, 2015
1,152 pp.

Pike’s book is an extraordinary achievement; it is as definitive as any single-volume history of the Pacific War can be. As the title suggests, Pike does not let Japanese Emperor Hirohito off the hook for the battles fought in his name. Pike sets the fighting firmly in the context of the regional tensions that had been developing for some time before any combat took place, not least as a result of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The book covers all the major campaigns and battles of the war, from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima, but also pays close attention to often overlooked topics, such as the Burma Campaign (which pitted the British and the Chinese against Indian, Japanese, and Thai forces) and the Chinese resistance to Japan. Pike’s analysis is careful but never dry, and he pens lively portraits of his main characters. The book covers so much, and at such great length, that the publisher apparently was not able to include maps, illustrations, notes, or appendixes. Readers must visit a website for that material. This is regrettable: it would have been better to split the book into two volumes.

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