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4.0 out of 5 stars Saving Professor Beevor, 20 Jun 2009
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This review is from: D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (Hardcover)
In "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy," Antony Beevor expertly applies the formula - and it is a formula - which he perfected in "Stalingrad" and "Berlin."

"D-Day" begins with the weather forecast on June 2, 1944 and ends abruptly with the liberation of Paris in August. There is little effort to place the Normandy campaign in the broader strategic context of the war or to break new ground in military analysis. What Beevor excels at, is the weaving of rich detail, anecdotes and quotations trawled from diaries, letters and oral history recorded close to the events together with official sources and histories, into a compelling and panoramic narrative. The effect is virtually cinematic. It is like being there.

It has to be said, however, that we have seen this movie before. We have been there with the troops vomiting in their helmets on the landing craft; we have shared the horror of the squaddies watching their officer torched by his own phosphorous grenade and screaming for someone to shoot him; we have seen the liberated settling scores and the liberators loading their tanks with spoils as the elderly chatelaine sighs, more in sadness than in anger, that the Boches were more honest.

We have met all the main actors too. The eccentric Churchill itching to get closer to the action; the outwardly calm Eisenhower, chain-smoking and devouring westerns to contain his nerves; the haughty De Gaulle recreating France out of his own stubborn will; the erratic Fuhrer intervening disastrously in military affairs; the honorable Rommel believing that Hitler must go but stopping short of supporting assassination; the tiresome Montgomery, for whom Beevor has little time; the pantomime Patten who confides Richard-the-Thirdian asides to his diary such as "Of course, Monty does not want me as he fears I will steal the show, which I will."

We know them all and can hum along with their tunes.

Does this matter? No, for the Battle for Normandy is a modern epic which bears visiting over and over again, much as we can enjoy numerous productions of Henry V in the course of a lifetime. It is a story worth retelling and Professor Beevor retells it superbly well.
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