Book Group: The Fear and the Freedom by Keith Lowe

Central London Humanists
Central London Humanists
Public group

South Bank Centre - Royal Festival Hall

Belvedere Road · London SE1 8XX

How to find us

Level Two, behind the shop, underneath the stairs.

Location image of event venue


September's Book is The Fear and the Freedom by Keith Lowe

From David Olusoga's review in The Guardian:

"A highly readable and startling history uses individual testimonies to strip away the layers of myth and misunderstanding that surround this devastating conflict...

The conflict remains a staple of TV, publishing and cinema... Meanwhile, our understanding of what the war meant to the people whose lives it shaped – both combatants and civilians – is distorted by layers of myth, the lingering echoes of wartime propaganda and the act of forgetting.

In The Fear and the Freedom, Lowe asks us to question the most critical delusion of all: that the allied powers acted as morally as the circumstances would allow and that this war, more perhaps than any in history, was a “good war”, fought against an ultimate evil for entirely laudable aims...

As a historian of the modern era, Lowe enjoys an enormous advantage over scholars who write about more distant epochs: he is able – for the moment at least – to draw into his writing the experiences of those who lived through the conflict...

As every journalist knows, the art of the interview rests on two principles: asking the right questions and putting them to the right people. With journalistic nous, Lowe has assembled a remarkable chorus of voices and asks the most probing of questions. Their testimony, combined with the author’s pointed analysis, elevates a laudable volume into a very readable and startling book.


It has been said that the most impressive and worrying features of human behaviour is our capacity to adapt to the most terrible of circumstances. As one of the messages of the British war – recently turned into a nostalgic cliche – suggests, most people have the capacity to “keep calm and carry on”. Yet the testimony in these pages demonstrates that adaptation to the extremes and horrors of war was made possible only by the forging of myth. Both combatants and civilians came to define the war as a clear-cut struggle between good and evil, or as a conflict that would save future generations from the abyss. This myth was an essential tool of survival. Now it is an obstacle to a proper understanding of how this most terrible of all wars continues to shape our lives."

Read the whole review here:

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While we are very social and welcoming, the book group's primary focus is on discussing books. Feel free to turn up if you haven't managed to finish this month's book but note that the group works best when we have all read at least some of the book and are prepared to share our opinions.


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