The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us

Written by Keith Lowe
Review by Janice Derr

Lowe’s new book picks up where his previous one, the excellent Savage Continent, left off. Moving beyond the devastation in Europe in the years directly following the end of WWII, his latest effort explores the war’s global impact from 1945 to today. Each chapter has a theme that is introduced by a man or woman’s personal reflections of the war and their life after. The individuals chosen represent a vast spectrum of experiences and come from varied backgrounds. Some are well-known, like Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld, and others like Choi Myeong-sun represent just one of the thousands of Korean “comfort women.” One of the standout stories is Yuasa Ken’s, a Japanese doctor who performed vivisections on Chinese prisoners during the war, and who later wrote a book confessing his crimes. His story highlights a central theme in the book, that there is no black and white in war, that no side was all good or all bad.

Trying to encompass the cultural, psychological, technological, political, etc., consequences of WWII on the entire world in one book is no easy task. The author admits to a slight Western bias but does an admirable job making the book truly global with his thoughtful sections on Africa and Latin America. A riveting read and a truly important book.