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John Q

D-Day Antony Beevor

D-Day.  The Battle for Normandy.  Antony Beevor
Half way through this.  No denying the huge research that has gone into it based on new archives that apparently have become available, or archives that Beevor had the academic energy to investigate.       You are thrown straight into the action with no real preamble as the book opens with Eisenhower agonising about the weather  for the invasion of the continent.  Beevor  hits  you with so much information in this book that you start to feel a bit bewildered. With the  blizzard of  companies and regiments on both sides and the actions and locations and the highly detailed maps it all gets a bit too much like hard work.  I tend to sort of glide over much of the detail  as you would be reading it forever if you tried to follow the narrative too scrupulously and just keep the broad situation in mind. D- Day  has become such a familiar piece of history that you forget what   a huge,  unprecedented, even daring  military operation it was. It was never certain that it would succeed.     So the picture he is trying to describe is necessarily going to be rather complex.
I read Beevor’s Stalingrad and I am not sure he is the type of historian that appeals to me. He is rather too fond  of  words like smash, destroy, battering ram, to describe military operations.  But on the other hand he maintains a relentless narrative that never slackens in interest and  it would be unfair to describe Beevor as an insensitive historian.  
A major  point  emphasised  in this book is how much the French civilians  in Normandy suffered in  the invasion. There did seem to be  a lot of   unnecessary destruction of  French towns and villages, resulting in a distressingly  large amount of civilian deaths and making many French refugees in their own country.  Although necessary and unnecessary  are words that only the armchair historians have the leisure to use confidently when the battle is long over.

Thanks for the review John

I don't think I have read any Antony Beever although he is of course a very prominent historian. I think it was his book a few years back about the Red Army in Berlin that caused quite a lot of controversy as it looked at the Soviet's treatment of the German women in the final days of the war.

I did read Sir Ian Kershaw's two large books on Hitler (Hubris and Nemesis) when they came out about a decade ago. I also have a hardback (and signed) collection of his essays since the 1970's but that sadly remains untouched to date.

Speaking of Russia, I recently bought 'Red Plenty' and 'Molotovs Magic Lantern' and plan to read them at some point this year. They both have had pretty good reviews and appear not to be in your standard non fiction historical format. Not sure if the style will grate but we shall see.


Green Jay

My other half has read both D Day and Stalingrad and rates Beevor as an author (and historian?). But then he does not read - or rather finish - very many books at all, so perhaps it is the smash-grab-action business that has grabbed his attention and kept him reading. Whatever it is, I am happy to have a "reader" in the family; whilst the females on both sides are all avid readers, the males are pretty hopeless. Not for want of intelligence, either. I can't explain it.

I think Beevor is an excellent writer.  His history books are compelling and read almost as novels the way they bring the period to life so well.
Green Jay

Just noticed another one on the shelves - Berlin. Not mine, obviously.

Thats a great review John. Thanks very much. That book is actually sounding familiar to me I am thinking it is quite possible I have read it, (considering I'll read anything do with the world wars it is more than likely I have!).

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