Discover How More Than 300,000 Soldiers Survived Impossible Odds at ‘Dunkirk’ [REVIEW]

Fionn Whitehead in DUNKIRK

Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in the Warner Bros. Pictures action thriller, “DUNKIRK,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

One of the biggest summer blockbusters coming to cinemas this summer is Dunkirk, award-winning writer/director Christopher Nolan’s captivating retelling of one of the most infamous moments of World War II: the daring evacuation of more than 300,000 Allied soldiers from a beach on the northern coast of France, just 305 kilometers north of Paris. But no matter how brilliant the film may be, there is obviously a lot of historical detail that can’t be packed into an hour and 46 minutes. That’s where Joshua Levine’s new book, Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture steps up to fill in the gaps.  

Joshua Levine's DUNKIRK

William Morrow

Like much of history, this moment in time is viewed from vastly different perspectives. Military personnel saw the Battle of Dunkirk as a major defeat. The public saw the event as a jaw-dropping victory. And Winston Churchill saw this as the perfect time to create propaganda that both bolstered the spirits of the British and lured the U.S. into war. In this book, Levine explains the disparity between these viewpoints and explores the personal lives of the men who fought, died, or survived this terrifying moment without sustenance. He also introduces us to the civilians who sailed overloaded boats across the Channel and to the airmen who risked everything to buy more time for their companions on the ground.

Let me begin by saying that I thought this was a fantastic book. Admittedly, I’m both a film buff and a history junkie, and I like learning all the behind-the-scenes detail that makes a movie come to life on the big screen. So the conversation at the front of the book between Levine, who served as the historical consultant for the film, and Christopher Nolan to be both fascinating and imperative. If you get the chance, I’d strongly suggest moviegoers to read this prior to seeing the film so that they can connect the dots and have a stronger understanding of what was transpiring during this event in 1940.

As a journalist, however, I’ve always found first-hand accounts about an event of even greater import than dry historical data. Although Levine has done his homework and provides us with the facts, he also helps us appreciate that out of 400,000 soldiers on the beach of Dunkirk, there were just as many different stories to tell, and these prove as emotionally charged as they are enlightening. When you finish this book, you will walk away considering how this evacuation not only changed the course of the war, but how it changed the course of our lives today. Levine proves himself a skilled aggregator of all the timeless information he gathered through personal interviews, in-depth research, and sometimes simply by visiting the terrain where the action transpired.

If you plan to see the movie, add Dunkirk the book to your reading list. It is the perfect companion piece to a film that is sure to garner much attention at the box office this summer. But even if you don’t plan on going to the cinema, read this book for insight into our recent history, and see just how the evacuation of Dunkirk continues to have a rippling effect across the landscape of time and why it shapes the political realm even now. This is one brilliant book!


Joshua Levine

Joshua Levine

Joshua Levine is the historical advisor on Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s epic adventure movie set during the Dunkirk evacuation of May/June 1940. Inspired by Joshua’s oral history, Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk, the film features Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy.

Joshua has also written six bestselling histories including other titles in the hugely popular Forgotten Voices series. Beauty and Atrocity, his account of the Irish Troubles, was nominated for the Writers’ Guild Book of the Year Award. On a Wing and a Prayer, his history of the pilots of World War I, has been turned into a major British television documentary.

He has written and presented a number of programs for BBC Radio 4, including The Real Rachman: Lord of the Slums and The Little Stamp That Became the Most Valuable Thing in the World. In a previous life, he was a criminal barrister. He lives in London. Visit Joshua at his home on the Web and follow him on Twitter.

By Joshua Levine
368 pgs. William Morrow. $16.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostYou may purchase Dunkirk at one of these fine online retailers: HarperCollins, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Dunkirk is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

Dunkirk Giveaway

Congratulations to David and Berniece Spinelli who just won a copy of Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture. Although the giveaway is over, stay tuned for more opportunities to win great prizes.

Learn more about the film Dunkirk, visit Film arrives in theaters on July 21.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to Discover How More Than 300,000 Soldiers Survived Impossible Odds at ‘Dunkirk’ [REVIEW]

  1. I was already interested in reading this book but your mention of how these events impact our world today has me really intrigued.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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