If you judge a book by its cover and the blurb that is splashed across it then you could be mistaken for picking this up with the impression it was by the world’s greatest historian. Beevor is good but the narrative history strand that he is part of is by no means something that he alone carries a torch for.
But what you do get here is an account of a period of the Second World War that is everything including the kitchen sink. Details like Eisenhower smoking four packs of cigarettes a day in the run up to D-Day might not seem necessary but are the sorts of visual image that make you realise just what it was like for those at the top.
As the first couple of chapters paint a scene of disunity and fear as the allies try to get on with each other enough to launch the D-Day offensive. Beevor doesn’t waste too much time filling in the background and so you get the story starting with just a few days to go until the launch. That creates a sense of engagement that some dusty summary of the first few years of the war would have never managed to do. So far this feels like a good follow-up to Stalingrad, which benefited from a story that was so powerful the numerous generals and army group details washed over you.
More to come next week...