Saturday, July 10, 2010

D-Day by Antony Beevor

Last August, J and I traveled to New Orleans to meet friends who were there for a conference.  We spent three days in the city, which we love, and we saw and did a few new things that we had missed on previous visits.  One of those things was a visit to the National WWII Museum.  I was interested, but not thrilled with the prospect of spending a full day there.  I could've spent three days there.  Seriously.  And ever since the one day that we spent there, I've been a little obsessed.  I've always been sort of fascinated by the way that the Allied nations and their citizens could pull together against a common enemy, and I think part of that has to do with the fact that I can't even imagine that in today's selfish, self-centered society.  It's always been the civilian side of things that interested me, though.  Until last summer.  Now I find myself absorbing every second of military history from the period that I can get my hands on.

This book was a random pick-up at the library for me.  It was sitting on an endcap with a bunch of other "new arrivals" at the front of the library, and the cover just jumped out at me.  I picked it up, unsure if I'd even crack it open at home, or if I'd just flip through a little, or if I'd actually endeavor to read the whole brick of a book.  When I told J I was unsure about it, he talked me into reading it.  It took me three weeks to read, because I'm sort of military illiterate still, but it was excellent.  When I say I'm military illiterate, I mean that I don't really know the basics of military hierarchy - battalions and regiments and companies - it just doesn't entirely make sense to me yet.  I'm getting there, but it's slow going.  Ranks still sort of confuse me too.  Add to all of that the fact that this book isn't strictly an Allied point of view, but it also explains a lot about the German positions, with all of their 15-letter German names for everything, and I think it's understandable why this was such a slow read for me.

All of that aside, though, this was an excellent book.  Any failings were my own, and not the book's.  There were a TON of maps, which I think is vital to any military history book.  I learned more about the geography of Northern France than I ever thought I'd know.    The book covers the period from shortly before D-Day through the liberation of Paris, and provides a pretty detailed overview of the route there.What I really liked, though, was that this was not as strictly American as most D-Day books I've come across.  It presents a more broad take on the whole invasion, including equal attention to all aspects of the Allied troops, as well as the German perspective, and the French, and most importantly, the French civilian, perspective.  It felt like the time spent on tactical and strategic components and on the more emotional, human, side of things was a very good balance.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in getting an in-depth, objective, candid overview of the Normandy invasion.

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