This is the third and final volume of Atkinson's Liberation trilogy, which started with North Africa, then went to Italy, and finally ended here beginning with the Normandy invasions and ending with the surrender of Nazi Germany.
I didn't like this one as much as the other two, especially the excellent one on North Africa. The reason why is that he started – literally – with the D-Day invasion. I was expecting an explanation of the strategy, the planning, Montgomery's role, the merits of the commanders of the different beaches, and I got none of that. It was a hell of an invasion, and then they were into the hedgerows. Nothing pre-invasion. After having been through Eisenhower's war in detail in the Jean Smith book recently, and remembering how key he was in the first volume, he was a bit player here.
The reason seemed to be that there was just a tremendous amount of ground to be covered in a general history like this – far more than I had any idea existed, frankly. Atkinson writes well, and hits home runs routinely, rhetorically speaking, but it's a bit showy when it comes off. I mean it does help remind you how intense all this way, but it's a bit bright, for lack of a better word. But when he covers the subject of the return of the soldiers' bodies to their families towards the end – details that I never knew – it is tremendously effective. The story of the three soldiers who were returned home to their parents and whose coffins spent the night in the bedroom where they had been born before being buried the next day was one that I know I'll never forget.
But definitely a must for any student of the Second World War. Probably going to be the definitive one-volume account of the European war from the American army perspective. Now I need to drill down into the personalities – Bradley, Montgomery, Churchill, etc. Just started Persico's Roosevelt's Centurions, so should get some of this through that.