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Éric Vuillard's gripping novel The Order of the Day tells the story of the pivotal meetings which took between the European powers in the run up to World War Two. What emerges is a fascinating and incredibly moving account of failed diplomacy, broken relationships, and the catastrophic momentum which led to conflict.
The titans of German industry - set to prosper under the Nazi government - gather to lend their support to Adolf Hitler. The Australian Chancellor realizes too late that he has wandered into a trap, as Hitler delivers the ultimatum that will lay the groundwork for Germany's annexation of Austria. Winston Churchill joins Neville Chamberlain for a farewell luncheon held in honour of Joachim von Ribbentrop: German Ambassador to England, soon to be Foreign Minister in the Nazi government, and future defendant at the Nuremberg trials.
We know that these meetings took place, but by imagining the atmosphere in the room, the words that were exchanged, the egos that were in play, Vuillard makes it impossible to ignore the fact that the world was brought to the brink of war because of the actions of, and decisions made by, those in power. The sense of failure and tragedy is cumulative: there was nothing inevitable about these disastrous events.