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Adding to the trunkful of extended WWII histories by the likes of Sir Max Hastings, Andrew Roberts, Martin Gilbert, John Keegan, and Norman Davies, Atkinson, winner of two Pulitzers (for An Army at Dawn, the first in the Liberation Trilogy, and for reporting), concludes his series on the war in Europe and North Africa with this superb work. Though lacking an overall theme, the book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage-peopling the pages are German, British, French, Canadian, and (primarily) American generals and common soldiers. Excerpts from the letters of dead soldiers on both sides, as well as from the diaries of captain generals, fill out the story. Atkinson takes readers through battles large and small, strategy as well as on-the-ground tactics, accompanied by vivid maps (courtesy of "master cartographer" Gene Thorp). Drama, the absurd, and the desperately sad weave throughout the narrative. War, Atkinson writes, is "a chaotic, desultory enterprise of reversal and advance, blunder and elan, despair and elation." In his estimation, such was the war for both the victors and the vanquished. His lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front's final phase. Two 16-page b&w photo inserts, 29 maps. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, Sagalyn Literary Agency. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Spanning D-day to V-E Day, Atkinson culminates his three-volume epic of the U.S. Army in Europe during WWII. Readers of the prior volumes (An Army at Dawn, 2002; The Day of Battle, 2007) will discover a thematic continuation in this one, namely, criticism of American generalship. Debacles such as Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and Patton's zany raid to liberate a POW camp punctuate the narrative of the U.S. Army's otherwise remorseless advance toward victory over the German army. To describe the high command's thinking concerning operations that turned into fiascoes, Atkinson funnels their postwar apologia through his appreciation of a particular battlefield situation, graphically conceptualized in this tome's excellent cartography. While casting generals in the light of human frailty, Atkinson allocates anecdotal abundance to soldiers' ground-war experiences. Emphasizing loss, he quotes many last letters from men destined to die. With a mastery of sources that support nearly every sentence, Atkinson achieves a military history with few peers as an overview of the 1944-45 campaigns in Western Europe.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Atkinson (former senior editor, Washington Post) has won Pulitzer Prizes in both journalism and history (An Army at Dawn). In this last book in his "Liberation Trilogy" on World War II, he continues to tout the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers and airmen. The book stands out from others on World War II because it successfully explores the fallibility of participants at all levels. Atkinson acknowledges the impact of infighting among volatile Allied generals, who egotistically pursued their own agendas and timelines, risking thousands of lives. He portrays the fighting as equal parts courage, cowardice, and chaos. Intermingled with the lurking fears among all involved was their feeling of being intensely alive. In exposing the vulnerabilities and imperfections of the enlisted men and officers, Atkinson does not diminish the overall heroism of their actions but instead humanizes their contributions. -VERDICT This is not a detailed account of any one particular battle but a sweeping epic, yet it is packed with fascinating details. Highly recommended to all who read World War II history, although those seeking detailed information about a specific unit or action may not find it here. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/12.]-Beth Dalton, Littleton, CO (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.