Monday, February 22, 2010

No Less Than Victory: a Novel of World War II

...This was a holy war, more than any other in history, this war has been an array of the forces of evil against those of righteousness. It had to have its leaders, and it had to be won - no matter what the sacrifices, no matter what the suffering to populations, to materials, to our wealth - oil, steel, industry - no matter what the cost was, the war had to be won. In Europe, it had to be won.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Too bad this was the most compelling part of this book. This was my sixth or seventh book by Shaara and I usually like them a lot. His (and his father's) Civil War books are among my favorite, and I've liked some of his others, but for some reason this one kinda fell flat.

Shaara's style is to follow several people's (some one each side) stories throughout the war. The books are written like novels, but I believe they are based as much as possible on true accounts. I think what made this one a little less magical than the Civil War books was that in the Civil War ones you really got a good idea of each man's personality and character and you got a glimpse of real heroes (like Joshua Chamberlain, a college professor from Maine who started the war commanding 20 men and ended the war as a general. At Gettysburg Chamberlain held the Union's left flank and it is not an exaggeration to say that he had a huge part in winning the war). In this book, Shaara spends a lot of time on the commanders, who spend most of their time (in the novel) bitching about each other and not making many strategic decisions. Of course, battlefield tactics were much more important during the Civil War, so the generals had much more of a hands on effect, which was predictably more compelling. Shaara also profiles a couple of infantrymen, but their story was mostly retreating through the snow, trying not to starve or freeze. Not that they weren't heroic, they just didn't have as much impact as the soldiers in other books.

In the end it wasn't bad, but another thing I loved about Shaara's other books was how much I learned, while in this the afterword had the vast majority of any useful information. I would recommend it if you like Shaara's books and have a lot of time on your hands (especially if you read the first two WWII installments at the same time; the fact that it's been at least a year since I read the second one might have been why I didn't enjoy it as much. oh well).

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