This is my second attempt. My first review was wiped out after I'd put the stars in. Browning was an unlikely husband for Daphne Du Maurier. He was sociable and liked committees. She was unsociable and hated all that sort of thing. Browning, or 'Boy' as he was unfortunately called-it has connotations of immaturity-was born to the privilege of Eton and the Grenadier Guards. He won a DSO in WW1 but was off sick quite a lot. In fact his whole life was littered with time off for nervous illness. His exterior was unflappable and competent, but he was prone to depression and drunk and smoked to excess. He was nonetheless an excellent soldier, and by the time WW2 came had been promoted so much he soon became a General. He was involved in the embryo Parachute Battalion(or whatever it was called) and helped prevent it being strangled at birth by the other services. Top Brass seem a bunch of wrangling egotists. Hitler had recognised that paratroops had a short expectation of life after Crete. Nevertheless Browning believed in them as did others, and they did well on D Day. Unfortunately there after there was a great deal of inaction, and when Montgomery proposed Market Garden in September 1944 they jumped at it. It was always risky and would only have worked if everything had gone right. Unfortunately, owing to RAF caution, they could not all land on one day and were on a loser at Arnhem from then on. Other mistakes were made, but they were not critical.
Unfortunately the film A Bridge Too Far is a bit like Braveheart-inaccurate propaganda. In this case pro American with Browning the unfairly depicted scapegoat. In my opinion the whole operation did not have sufficient resources or proper leadership-the mixture of Americans and British saw to that, and Montgomery failed to give it his usual attention to detail.
Browning was fine, in my opinion, although not blameless. He was a highly strung man, and playing his imperturbable role took its toll on his health,as did the drinking and smoking, no doubt caused by severe stress. Being Prince Philip's right hand man and living in London all week no doubt did not help, and he died before he was 70.
This is a well written and sympathetic book, and Browning comes over as as a reasonable husband-considering how difficult Du Maurier was, with her crushes on others and a good, although inevitably mostly absentee father.
He had a good and mostly pampered life. Generals seemed to live like kings with their batmen, chauffeurs and so on.
We are better off for his having existed and he comes over as likeable and able, if superficially stand-offish, like most of the Old Etonians I've met.He was charming to many,we're told,and fair to if very strict with his troops.