Top critical review
Reasonable Popular History Book on the North African Campaign
on 11 October 2015
I primarily chose to read this particular book on Alamein because Colin Smith's book "Singapore Burning" was one of the best books on the Second World War that I have ever read. Alas I found this book was rather disappointing.
First the title, calling the book Alamein is a really a marketing ploy because this book really concerns the entire North African Campaign, with some references to the Mediterranean Campaign not simply Alamein. Whilst the book ‘Singapore Burning” concerned the entire Malayan Campaign, the campaign itself was so short, it in effect merges into one quick episode. On the other hand the North African Campaign actually lasted for years.
The book also includes some rather dubious research on issues such as Jasper Maskelyne. The authors repeated the man’s claims as though proven fact, whereas most historians consider it all nonsense. I can’t believe that the authors would not have realized this, so they appear to have included it just because they felt it sounded good.
The book also veers off in directions that whilst interesting, have no significant bearing on Alamein. There is an entire chapter devoted to László Almásy for example. The events described are of the most minor importance in the story of the campaign so in truth the chapter serves merely as a historical review of the book and film, ‘The English Patient’.
The book also indulges in some good old-fashioned officer bashing throughout. There is a constant stream of small digs, presumably because of the personal dislike of the authors towards the British officer class. This is rather unforgivable because no critical analysis is made, just smart aleck remarks. Strangely I didn’t find this to be the case at all in ‘Singapore Burning’.
Overrall, this is a reasonable book. Perhaps if you are a hobby historian, it may give you just enough information and it is written in a reasonably engaging fashion so you may like it. If you want an engaging book that also seeks to delve deeper with some critical analysis into the campaign then this really isn’t for you.