Atkinson (The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, 2007, etc.) brings his Liberation Trilogy to a resounding close.
The war, of course, ended in Allied victory—though, it often seems even in these closing pages, just barely. Among the challenges were not just a ferocious German war machine that refused to stop grinding, but an Allied effort often hampered by internal disagreements and the inevitable jockeying for power. One skillful player was British general Bernard Montgomery, whom Atkinson captures with a gesture in an opening set piece: “With a curt swish of his pointer, Montgomery stepped to the great floor map.” That map provided a visual survey of Overlord, the great 1944 multipronged invasion of Normandy, of which the author’s long account is masterful and studded with facts and figures. Many of the key actors—Eisenhower, Patton—will be well-known to American readers, but others will not, not least of them Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the oldest general at D-Day and perhaps the bravest as well. American readers may also not know that British and Canadian troops landed elsewhere in Normandy on that day and paid a fearful price; Atkinson is to be commended for giving equal billing to those Allies. Toward the end, those Western Allies finally worked out some of their big differences, just in time for the final savage campaign of winter 1944–1945, which included the Battle of the Bulge. Atkinson assumes little outside knowledge of his readers, so his story is largely self-contained; as such, with the other volumes in the trilogy, it makes a superb introduction to a complex episode in world history.
An outstanding work of popular history, in the spirit of William Manchester and Bruce Catton.