Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Book review: D-Day

I regret not being able to find the time to read as much as I'd like to these days. When I do, it is a sleepy ten minutes in the bath - often reading the same dog-eared pages again.

Having said that, I do know a considerable number of kids' books by heart now. Ask me anything about "The Kiss that Missed" or "Penelope goes to School"!

Late last year I finally got my teeth into "D-Day. The Battle for Normandy". I was always under the impression that D-Day was never really in doubt as a success, and once the beaches were taken, plain sailing to Berlin. Right?

It's a bloody good job I read this book then. It is absolutely riveting. It delivers the whole D-Day + events of 1944 in Northern France in absorbing detail; awesome vignettes of the action without ever losing the reader from the broader picture unfolding across Normandy.

I was particularly struck by the inanely childish, petty & arrogant behaviour of the British commander (Montgomery), and how poorly he misread, misrepresented, and mis-directed his theatre. With air support, a break in the weather, more trust from Hitler, the German forces could very well have withstood the invasion to liberate Europe.

I never realized how touch and go this entire part of WWII was. The movies of old (The Longest Day) have an air of inevitability about the final outcome after some aggro getting off the beaches. The first scenes of Saving Private Ryan re-wrote that particular misnomer.

Antony Beevor's book spells it out blow by blow; platoon up to division scale; village by river by hillside by bridge by bocage. And from every angle - Allied yes but certainly not always on the same page. Given what the Germans had, the resistance they produced is staggering.

This book is superbly well written. Better then his previous works on The Fall of Berlin (another battle I knew not enough about) & Stalingrad, which is saying a lot.

I couldn't put this book down (not just because I was in the bath). It is a stand out book on any bookshelf. Come borrow!