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The Dark Valley:
"Dark Valley" as a phrase was coined first by the Japanese to refer to the desperate years of chaotic depression that followed the 1929 slump. But, as Piers Brendon's epic history of the same name vividly demonstrates, it was apt to describe any of the world's leading nations of the time--the crippled, traumatized European powers, a moody, solitary U.S., Stalin's outcast Soviet Union, and volatile, upstart Japan--with varying degrees of severity and fascinatingly contrasting outcomes. With no dishonor to those who endured the unspeakable traumas of the First World War, reading Brendon's scholarly tome leaves little scope to argue with the assertion, made by Leon Blum, among others, that the economic crisis and its effects were as traumatic as the "war to end all wars." Worse was to come, for sure, but the events that led to the "chasm" of the Second World War still boggle the mind--from our safe distance it is difficult to comprehend that this actually came to pass, yet at the same time the whole era seems to be engulfed by a fatalistic air of inevitability. In many ways, the insane dance of rampant ideological forces and economic desperation unleashed across the sphere make for the more gripping history, and in Brendon's hands, the cast of thousands is skillfully evoked, while the facts are judiciously evaluated, in a rolling narrative through the tribulations of the era. This is first-class historical writing, but certainly not for the faint-hearted. --Alisdair Bowles, Amazon.co.uk [via]