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The Lighthouse of Stalingrad

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About the Author

Iain MacGregor has been an editor and publisher of nonfiction for over 25 years. He is the author of the acclaimed history of Cold War Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie. As a history student he visited the Baltic and the Soviet Union in the early 1980s and has been captivated by Soviet history ever since. He has published books on every aspect of the Second World War on the Eastern Front 1941-45 and has visited archives in Leningrad, Moscow and Volgograd. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and his writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Spectator and BBC History Magazine. He lives with his wife and two children in London.


In the midst of Moscow's bloody war on Ukraine, with Putin invoking 'glorious victories' of World War II to inspire his country, Iain MacGregor's vivid, dramatic, day-by-day account reminds us that the awful reality of Stalingrad for soldiers on both sides was: 'The lucky ones bled, froze or starved to death in temporary field hospitals in bunkers or cellars.' -- William Taubman, Pulitzer prize-winning author
The Lighthouse of Stalingrad is the finest of military history, utterly riveting, based on revelatory and superb research, and a heart-rending account of arguably the most impactful battle to defeat Nazism in WW2. A wonderful and important and timely book. -- Alexander Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Bedford Boys and First Wave
Stunning. History at its very best: a blend of impeccably researched scholarship, genuinely revelatory primary sources, and a beautifully written narrative. The grim brutality of the conditions in which the men of both sides fought - and died - is brought back to life with immense clarity; one can almost smell the smoke and stench of death. Iain MacGregor's superb book is the most compellingly readable account yet written of this iconic, notorious battle. -- James Holland
If you thought you knew all about the Battle of Stalingrad, Iain Macgregor' s gripping account will put you right. Drawing on a remarkable range of diaries, letters and memoirs, many of which have never been published before, he provides an illuminating, authoritative and unforgettable insight into the decisive days of that most terrible struggle on the banks of the Volga. * Jonathan Dimbleby *
A very vivid picture . . . Personal testimonies nobody has seen before. A fast-paced, compelling read' * We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast *
If you believe there is nothing fresh to be written about the most decisive battle of the Second World War, Iain MacGregor's The Lighthouse of Stalingrad will be something of a revelation. The author has a talent for choosing an iconic location and working out from that to create new insights into a world-historical event . . . he builds on the legend of the 'Pavlov House' (codename 'Lighthouse'), a key building on the northern edge of the narrow strip of territory still held by the Red Army in Stalingrad in the late summer of 1942, whose commanding position allowed the Soviets to hold back, survey and devastate the hitherto all-conquering German forces. It was a turning point. The courageous Soviet sergeant, Jakov Pavlov, whose 'storm group' took and held the building, became a propaganda star for Stalin's regime at a time when the Soviet (and overall Allied) war effort desperately needed one. The often devious story of how the legend was created is fascinating, but equally so is MacGregor's consequent contribution to the Stalingrad narrative. Beginning with this example, he details how the city was taken back, street by street, house by house, room by room, by the Soviet forces, at tremendous cost. The sheer brutal intimacy of his descriptions of this fighting are extraordinary. MacGregor has combed Soviet archives and publications, interviewed family members of Red Army soldiers and senior officers, as well as gaining unique access to previously unpublished German memoirs of the battle. This is a chilling, vivid account that helps to explain not just the Third Reich's defeat at Stalingrad but also the myths that persist in Russia to this day - for better and, most recently, for worse. * Frederick Taylor, bestselling author of Dresden *
MacGregor retells [this story] with impressive skill and relish . . . closely researched and enormously engaging * Sunday Times *
Closely researched and engagingly written, MacGregor's wonderful book shines important new light on the most horrific, and arguably the most important, battle of the 20th century. It is a story of 'backs to the wall' defence of the Motherland that modern Russians, with the boot now on the other foot, would do well to study. -- Saul David * Telegraph *
Meticulous yet action-packed, this will thrill WWII buffs * Publisher's Weekly *
An utterly gripping read -- Tom Holland
As well as being . . . a fine narrative history of the titanic battle it is about the complicated relationship between reality, legend and myth in war * Country Life *
MacGregor writes with great fluency and narrative drive, and his account of the context to the battle and the complexity of its fraught swings of fortune and misfortune is compellingly terse -- William Boyd * New Statesman *
Historian Iain MacGregor brings [Stalingrad's] graphic horror to life through his own storytelling and eyewitness accounts of soldiers on both sides of a conflict during which the dead were left frozen where they had fallen. It is almost as if you are there in the trenches. * i Paper *
MacGregor takes us right into the war on and below the ground . . . A gripping and knowledgeable account * Spectator *
Magisterial -- Dan Snow
A fascinating, well-researched, superbly-organized and well-written account of a complex struggle, within the context of a war of annihilation. It adds a human face to the conflict and conveys the immensity of human suffering involved. -- David M. Glantz
The best and richest book yet written about the battle for Stalingrad and what it means today * Critic *
Peeling back the layers of myth surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad is a tall order. In The Lighthouse of Stalingrad Iain MacGregor brilliantly dissects the story of Pavlov's House, the building supposedly defended by a small group of Soviet men against overwhelming odds. * History Today, *Books of the Year 2022* *
Carefully researched . . . This valuable addition to the body of work about Stalingrad goes a long way toward righting the balance between myth and reality * Wall Street Journal *

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