The story of operation Overlord and the French-coast landings on D-day, June 6, 1944, has been recounted many times both in print and on the big screen. It is certainly a story worth retelling, and Beevor (Stalingrad) does it well, combining contemporary accounts with a moving narrative, beginning on June 2, 1944, and ending with the liberation of Paris in August. He relates the operation from all points of view, from the commanders to the men on the beaches, giving equal time to all participants and including, more unusually, the experiences of the French civilians involved. Civilian casualties ran into the tens of thousands, a fact either ignored or given short shrift in most books. Beevor shifts perspectives smoothly, enabling the reader to follow along without confusion, from the U.S. landings on Omaha and Utah beaches to the British and Canadians landings on Sword and Juno beaches, to the airborne incursion and the German response. Verdict Beevor has written an in-depth campaign history, comparable to Max Hastings's Overlord and Carlo D'Este's Decision in Normandy, that should be read by beginners and experts alike. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/09.]-David Lee Poremba, Windermere, FL Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Beevor has established a solid reputation as a chronicler of WWII's great eastern front battles: Stalingrad and Berlin. In addressing D-Day, he faces much wider competition with historians like Stephen Ambrose and Max Hastings, who also use his method of integrating personal experiences, tactical engagements, operational intentions and strategic plans. Beevor combines extensive archival research with a remarkable sense of the telling anecdote: he quotes, for example, an officer's description of the "bloody mass of arms and legs and heads, [and] cremated corpses" created by artillery fire as the Germans tried to escape the Allied breakout. He is sharply critical of senior commanders on both sides: Bernard Montgomery's conceit; Adolf Hitler's self-delusion; Dwight Eisenhower's mediocrity. His heroes are the men who took the invasion ashore and carried it forward into Normandy in the teeth of a German defense whose skill and determination deserved a better cause. The result was a battle of attrition: a "bloody slog" that tested British and American fighting power to the limit-but not beyond. Beevor says that it wasn't Allied forces' material superiority but their successful use of combined arms and their high learning curve that were decisive in a victory that shaped postwar Europe. Maps, illus. (Oct. 13) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.