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Stodgy going at times, with moments of excellence
on 12 July 2016
Beevor's account of the D-Day landings is typically thorough, and those who enjoyed his accounts of the battle of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin are unlikley to be disappointed. But, I would have to agree with some other reviewers here that perhaps the sheer scale of the campaign in Normandy has stretched Beevor's talents too far on this occasion.
Beevor is good on drawing out the inevitable behind-the-scenes rivalries between the military leaders and statesmen involved in the planning and execution of D-Day. Montgomery comes out of it particularly badly, and Beevor does seem to favour the might and organisation of the US forces over the apparently ill-prepared and poorly disciplined British involvement. This is never completely backed up with overwhelming evidence, so it does make for a slighly biased read that gets the hackles rising.
As ever, Beevor is good on the detail of combat, but the names of the various divisions blur after a while, and what the book really lacks is more strategic and historical analysis of why D-Day was so important, and where it fit into the wider picture of shaping the end of the war in 1945. This is tackled a bit half-heartedly in a very short Aftermath chapter, as if Beevor himself has grown bored of his efforts to pull together too much material. Beevor seems to be more of a details man, but military history can occasionally benefit from less minutae and more probing and succinct analysis to make it really valuable.
Reading the Kindle version, one is struck by just how unsatisfactory the e-reader is for this sort of material. Photos, footnotes, maps and references are clumsily presented, and although the chapters themselves are readable enough, the whole thing is probably better read and enjoyed on paper.