A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940
William Trotter

This was the second book that I read on the Winter War and its scope is much greater and more in-depth than The Winter War - The Soviet Attack On Finland 1939-1940 by Eloise Engle and Lauri Paananen. In fact the differences are almost night and day in the amount of details and coverage given to the war. The author did his research for the book while living in Finland and certainly did his homework.

One of the best sections of the book deals with the causes of the Winter War and how certain events lead up to the war. It gives an excellent insight into what leaders in both the USSR and Finland were feeling and dealing with before the outbreak of the War. This segment of the book is outstanding and covers many aspects of the Winter War that many Western readers often do not understand. Trotter pulls no punches in his assessment of the various point of views, so he gives a refreshing non-political standpoint of the events. I can state this assisted me greatly in getting a true feeling of what was happening just prior to the war and what lead to the outbreak of hostilities.

Where Trotter’s work shines is his detailed and accurate accounts of the actions that took place during the War. Where The Winter War - The Soviet Attack On Finland 1939-1940 by Eloise Engle and Lauri Paananen lacks in detail, Trotter is filled with details. While he does not follow the events of the War in exact chorological order, he does break the battles down by sections. As such his work gives an excellent picture of what was being faced in each sector of the war - the Isthmus, the area north of Lake Ladoga, and the Lapland area - and just how the events took place in each sector.

He is very detailed in his effort when he covers the various battles as he not only mentions the geographical area of the battle as well as the names of the units involved but also in many cases gives the commander’s name and background even including the names of many sub-commanders and other notable persons that took part in the battle. Trotter is also skillful at detailing how events taking place in one battle had a direct effect on what was occurring in other sectors or other actions. These accounts alone give the reader a greater understanding of the “big picture” of what was taking place during the War. He also shows just how grave the situation was on both sides of the front. His accounts of the Lapland area are chilling. Lastly he is somewhat critical of the mistakes that both sides made during the fighting, which is a good example of his style of writing.

After reading this book one will be armed with a vast amount of facts and have a good understanding of what took place in the Winter War, what the root causes of the War were, and the reader will also have a great amount of sympathy for all of those that took part in the fighting. It is hard to compare this to the book reviewed above as the scope of Frozen Hell is much greater than The Winter War and is much more detailed. It is a work that is a “must have” for anyone interested in the subject. It is also easy to read as the author’s style of writing is enjoyable.

There are some downsides to this book but that is mainly due to publishing problems and not related to the author. The book was for years out of print and one can find various reprints of the book on the market. In some the photos and maps seem to be better than in some of the older versions. Overall the maps are outstanding but the photos in most copies are not quite as good as one would hope. Stating the above this not a large negative and should not prevent anyone from owning this volume of history.

(Reviewed by Brent Snodgrass)

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