Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
on 22 January 2008
I bought Rick Atkinson's "An Army at Dawn" (which follows the North African campaign from Operation Torch to Tunis) and, like many people, have been eagerly awaiting his newest book which covers Sicily and Italy.
The book rumbles from one end of Italy to the other, following the campaign in detail, with clear maps and some excellent photos. It being primarily a book about the American fighting in Italy, non-American units are sidelined in that the level of detail devoted to them is far less. Atkinson's writing style is at times florid but he never fails to point out the brutality, the humanity and the sacrifice.
There are minor errors scattered through the book, which an editor with a comprehensive knowledge of WW2 would have picked up. These include incorrect designations for weapons or vehicles or wrong calibre sizes for artillery. They aren't anything more than a niggle, but they are there.
The biggest weakness of the book, though, and the reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars, is that Atkinson has a Montgomery axe to grind, and grind it he does. He contrasts him unfavourably with Mark Clark, and in my opinion glosses over Clark's numerous faults.
Yes, we all know Monty was a pompous, overbearing, arrogant man. Atkinson's criticisms of him, though, imply that he was a poor general, which he was not. Atkinson objects to Montgomery's refusal to risk casualties, which is exactly the reason his men loved him - they knew he would not risk their lives without a good reason.
Atkinson does, however, gloss over Mark Clark's failings, which include his almost incessant self-promotion, his lack of strategic vision and his unhealthy opinion of the fighting strength of the British and French. Clark's extraordinary disregard for casualties is also not emphasised enough, in my opinion.
If you can ignore the at times excessive bleating about Monty and the occasional fawning over the much-overrated Clark, this is a superb book, broad, deep and thoroughly researched.