#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson's acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II
It is the twentieth century's unrivaled epic: at a staggering price, the United States and its allies liberated Europe and vanquished Hitler. In the first two volumes of his bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted how the American-led coalition fought through North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now, in The Guns at Last Light, he tells the most dramatic story of all—the titanic battle for Western Europe.
D-Day marked the commencement of the final campaign of the European war, and Atkinson's riveting account of that bold gamble sets the pace for the masterly narrative that follows. The brutal fight in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the disaster that was Operation Market Garden, the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and finally the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich—all these historic events and more come alive with a wealth of new material and a mesmerizing cast of characters. Atkinson tells the tale from the perspective of participants at every level, from presidents and generals to war-weary lieutenants and terrified teenage riflemen. When Germany at last surrenders, we understand anew both the devastating cost of this global conflagration and the enormous effort required to win the Allied victory.
With the stirring final volume of this monumental trilogy, Atkinson's accomplishment is manifest. He has produced the definitive chronicle of the war that unshackled a continent and preserved freedom in the West.
One of The Washington Post's Top 10 Books of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013
Adding to the trunkful of extended WWII histories by the likes of Sir Max Hastings, Andrew Roberts, Martin Gilbert, John Keegan, and Norman Davies, Atkinson, winner of two Pulitzers (for An Army at Dawn, the first in the Liberation Trilogy, and for reporting), concludes his series on the war in Europe and North Africa with this superb work. Though lacking an overall theme, the book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage peopling the pages are German, British, French, Canadian, and (primarily) American generals and common soldiers. Excerpts from the letters of dead soldiers on both sides, as well as from the diaries of captain generals, fill out the story. Atkinson takes readers through battles large and small, strategy as well as on-the-ground tactics, accompanied by vivid maps (courtesy of "master cartographer" Gene Thorp). Drama, the absurd, and the desperately sad weave throughout the narrative. War, Atkinson writes, is "a chaotic, desultory enterprise of reversal and advance, blunder and lan, despair and elation." In his estimation, such was the war for both the victors and the vanquished. His lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front's final phase. Two 16-page b&w photo inserts, 29 maps.
Battlefields well trod
The third book of Atkinson's WWII trilogy walks over ground previously covered by decades of authors, occasionally finding a new artifact, but often pointing out familiar landmarks and then moving on. Like the generals we first meet in his gripping book on the North African campaign and then follow into Sicily and Italy in his much needed second book on that less chronicled, bloody slog up the peninsula; Atkinson seems worn down by the time we break out of Normandy.
The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far captured the the sweep of the big battles in more detail. He does fill a void with his narrative of the all-but-forgotten campaign up the Rhone from Southern France; and his painful account of the brutal, final pounding of Germany in the spring of '45 holds its own with any other history I have seen. But this is the lesser... the least ... of the three volumes.
What Atkinson does bring is a much appreciated journalist's verdict to his profiles of the commanders. He treats the heroes with an even and sometimes critical eye. He also names the names of those forgotten generals whom history has passed over because they were weak or vain or failures. He also holds up a few commanders who should be better remembered than they are today.
I own the other two volumes in hardback and I must complain that the maps on an iPad are far too small to be of any use, a real problem for a military history. If there was a way to scale them up, I could not find it. On the other hand, the digital book brought great power to bear on the author's sometimes overwrought vocabulary. It was much easier to keep moving when a definition was only a tap away.
If you, too, have spent years with the histories of this war, this volume is a return trip to familiar fields. Ah yes, we observe: Monty is still the vain rooster; the French remain blustering, incompetent warriors; Patton is still the dashing, but bloody, warrior; the Germans still lose while fighting with better weapons than anybody else. And, somehow, Ike manages to hold it together.
Staggering price is RIGHT
Why does a 400 page digital document need to be priced at $20.00?
Bringing to life on a visceral level the reality of war
Bringing to life a period in time that perhaps is forgotten, overlooked and taken for granted. A visceral connection is made through by showing the reality of an unconscionable war fought by men and women whose sacrifices would be unimaginable today. If anything else this trilogy helps keep their legacy alive and extremely relevant.