How many superlatives can be used in reviewing this book? Words such as incomparable, outstanding, the acme, the apex, matchless, cannot say enough - this work of art deserves each and everyone. The author relates his intentions in his “To The Reader” section in regards to what he expects to do for the reader, and he does not disappoint the book lover or anyone else.
If you are a history buff, then Jeff Shaara has it for you; if you prefer historical fiction or a novel, this book is all of those. Shaara has written eight books that have become bestsellers, including The Rising Tide. With remarkable insight he relates conversations between historical figures such as General Patton and General Bradley, where no written record exists as to what was said. How does he know what conversation ensued? On occasion a written record exists but often, it does not. He relates what he believes was said, based on his research of history, the men, how they spoke, their grammar, their breeding, education, beliefs, and their frustrations. Making the book even more enjoyable, the author fills it with dialogue between towering notables, their aides and colleagues, such as Churchill and Eisenhower, Field Marshal Rommel and Hitler, and Generals Eisenhower and Bradley. However, he rounds the work out by not omitting the actual fighting men such as infantrymen, paratroopers and tank drivers. He has repeated this method in all of his books, covering most of America’s wars and doing it extremely well.
The manuscript begins in 1942 with the British Army Desert Rats (as they were known) and their Australian and New Zealand allies slugging it out against the Desert Fox (Rommel) in the Libyan Desert. The book covers the day to day lives of the fighting men and how the Generals conceive their attacks and retreats. Shaara’s description of how the various leaders saw their enemies is brilliant; for example, Rommel knew that General Montgomery would always rest and re-supply after a battle. Therefore, Rommel would attack, whether or not he thought he and his men were actually ready, and this tactic usually resulted in a victory for Germany.
By 1943, the Allies believed that after Italy had surrendered, it would be a piece of cake to capture Italy and move on to Germany. The Italians did surrender; however, the Nazis weren’t about to leave quietly. The book ends with the Americans and the British taking Naples and fighting some very tough battles in Salerno. At the same time, the Allies are planning an attack on the French Coast to invade Germany.
Shaara adds another nice touch to his books that is not usually done by other writers. In an Afterword, he informs the reader what actually happened to some of the characters in his book such as Rommel, Patton, Mark Clark and Montgomery, which could be viewed as the “Rest of the Story.”
The author plans a second and third novel to complete the trilogy of the Second World War in Europe.