SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945

Holt. (Liberation Trilogy, Bk. 3). May 2013. 896p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780805062908. $40; ebk. ISBN 9781429943673. HIST
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Atkinson (former senior editor, Washington Post) has won Pulitzer Prizes in both journalism and history (An Army at Dawn). In this last book in his "Liberation Trilogy" on World War II, he continues to tout the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers and airmen. The book stands out from others on World War II because it successfully explores the fallibility of participants at all levels. Atkinson acknowledges the impact of infighting among volatile Allied generals, who egotistically pursued their own agendas and timelines, risking thousands of lives. He portrays the fighting as equal parts courage, cowardice, and chaos. Intermingled with the lurking fears among all involved was their feeling of being intensely alive. In exposing the vulnerabilities and imperfections of the enlisted men and officers, Atkinson does not diminish the overall heroism of their actions but instead humanizes their contributions.
VERDICT This is not a detailed account of any one particular battle but a sweeping epic, yet it is packed with fascinating details. Highly recommended to all who read World War II history, although those seeking detailed information about a specific unit or action may not find it here. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/12.]

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