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The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (The Liberation Trilogy) Paperback – May 13, 2014


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The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (The Liberation Trilogy) + The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy) + An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Spanning D-day to V-E Day, Atkinson culminates his three-volume epic of the U.S. Army in Europe during WWII. Readers of the prior volumes (An Army at Dawn, 2002; The Day of Battle, 2007) will discover a thematic continuation in this one, namely, criticism of American generalship. Debacles such as Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and Patton’s zany raid to liberate a POW camp punctuate the narrative of the U.S. Army’s otherwise remorseless advance toward victory over the German army. To describe the high command’s thinking concerning operations that turned into fiascoes, Atkinson funnels their postwar apologia through his appreciation of a particular battlefield situation, graphically conceptualized in this tome’s excellent cartography. While casting generals in the light of human frailty, Atkinson allocates anecdotal abundance to soldiers’ ground-war experiences. Emphasizing loss, he quotes many last letters from men destined to die. With a mastery of sources that support nearly every sentence, Atkinson achieves a military history with few peers as an overview of the 1944–45 campaigns in Western Europe. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A magnificent book...[Atkinson] is an absolute master of his material.”—Max Hastings, The Wall Street Journal

“A tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity...The Liberation Trilogy is a monumental achievement, about 2,500 pages in all, densely researched but supremely readable.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Breathtaking, unforgettable...This volume is a literary triumph worthy of the military triumph it explores and explains.”—The Boston Globe

“Monumental… As befits a journalist who knows his material inside and out, Atkinson can provide the incisive explanation to a complex situation or personage…A masterpiece of deep reporting and powerful storytelling.”—The Los Angeles Times

“Atkinson] reconstructs the period from D-Day to V-E Day by weaving a multitude of tiny details into a tapestry of achingly sublime prose…With great sensitivity, Atkinson conveys the horrible reality of what soldiers had to become to defeat Hitler’s Germany.”—The Washington Post

“Detailed in its research, unsparing in its judgments and confident in its prose…This trilogy—on which [Atkinson has] spent 12 years, twice as long as the war itself—may well be his masterpiece.”—Time Magazine

“Great characters, vivid details…The final volume of Rick Atkinson’s ‘Liberation Trilogy’ proves again that few can re-tell a story as well as he.”—USA Today

“A remarkable conclusion to his three parts on WWII… A fabulous book.”—Tom Brokaw on MSNBC’s Morning Joe

“The same qualities that garnered Atkinson a Pulitzer Prize for An Army at Dawn—meticulous research married to masterful narrative—are apparent in The Guns at Last Light. The new book relates the oft-told (but never better) story of the war’s final year, from D-Day to the German surrender.”—The Chicago Tribune

“Epic, set-piece battle sequences are balanced by deft portraiture. The Greatest Generation is nearly gone….The Liberation Trilogy is the monument it deserves.”—Vanity Fair

“A sweeping, prodigiously researched epic…The Guns at Last Light is a definitive, heartfelt work of grandeur, atrocity, and profound sorrow. It is also, along with the two previous volumes, a long, fervent prayer for the fallen.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“[An] extraordinary accomplishment. This is a beautifully written, moving account of one of the most bittersweet chapters in modern history…The details build a stunning and precise account of major movements—from Normandy to Paris, from the South of France to Grenoble—and close-up portraits of famous figures that make them living, breathing beings.”—Smithsonian Magazine

“A riveting book…Few historians have Atkinson’s gift for language and few journalists pay as much attention to historical sources…Atkinson writes with the descriptive and lyrical power of a first-rate novelist.”—Christian Science Monitor

“Emotionally gripping…This 850-page military history captivates the reader with the high drama of a spellbinding novel and a cast of characters that a master storyteller would be hard-pressed to invent…It’s hard to imagine a more engrossing, dramatic, fair-minded and elegantly written account of these 11 months that changed the course of history.”—Associated Press

“A terrific read…Atkinson never loses track of the men who fought the war. Mining their diaries and letters, he has produced an account that is achingly human.”—The Miami Herald

“A richly detailed narrative of the war final’s year, with riveting looks at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

“Atkinson paints on a vast canvas while stressing the details. He cites the experiences of soldiers — officers and grunts alike—caught up in a conflagration beyond their comprehension. He preserves the humanity of humans in an inhumane situation…Passages describe human courage and depravity in such vivid prose that readers need to pause, reflect and regroup…His book is a fitting tribute.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Soon, if not already, Atkinson will show up on the list of giants, as later historians stand on his shoulders.”—The Dallas Morning News

“An epic conclusion to an epic historical trilogy about an epic quest to preserve Western freedom, The Guns at Last Light is sure to join its predecessor volumes in the best-seller ranks, and confirms the Liberation Trilogy as a new benchmark against which World War II books yet to be written will be measured.”—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Crisp narrative drive, prodigious research and incisive analysis of people and events...Atkinson’s latest work is probably the single best volume about the war in Europe from the D-Day invasion...to the capitulation of German forces...Rick Atkinson…has become a poet of the war.”—The Washington Independent Review of Books

“Superb…Atkinson writes sensitively, even lyrically…The Guns at Last Light offers an outstanding testament to all who sacrificed to defeat Hitler’s Third Reich.”—The Louisville Courier-Journal

“The master of narrative military history ends his Liberation Trilogy with this admired account of the 1944-45 fighting in Western Europe.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Guns at Last Light is an important addition to the World War II bookshelf.”—The Washington Times

“Impressively researched…and energetically written, with a brisk pace that carries the reader easily through the narrative’s 600-plus pages.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Stark photographs complement the excellent prose.”—Richmond Times Dispatch

“[The Guns at Last Light] is deep in detail, narrative and character description. Readers encounter famous generals—Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, and a host of lower officers—in illuminated portrayals, warts and all.”—Knoxville News Sentinel

“Sweeping in scope, Shakespearean in drama and angst, unsparing in its observations, and rich in detail…Atkinson said that he wrote the trilogy as an effort to tell [the story of the frontline troops] ‘vividly and authoritatively, to current and future generations.’ That he has.”—Defense Media Network

“Atkinson’s zest for research and his evident devotion to hard facts never obscures the grace of his writing. The proof of that lies less in the many accolades and prizes (including a Pulitzer in history in 2003) than simply in the reading. Rare is a 600-page-plus history book that qualifies as a page turner.”—Military History Magazine

“Brilliant…Each volume [of the Liberation Trilogy] is characterized by superb research and fine writing. The high standard set in the prologue to the first volume carries through the epilogue to the last.”—BG Harold W. Nelson, Army Magazine

“Richly rewarding and beautifully crafted …With lyrical élan, [Atkinson] accurately and objectively tells the greatest story of our time, and does so with the general reader always in mind.”— World War II Magazine

“A marvelous capstone to a trilogy that will make Rick Atkinson to the U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations what Shelby Foote is to the Civil War…Mr. Atkinson has a rare ability to combine a historian’s eye with a reporter’s pen to simultaneously provide a sweep and detail to combat that is both unique and enjoyable for the novice student and the hardiest grognard.”—New York Journal of Books

“Superb…Atkinson brings his Liberation Trilogy to a resounding close…An outstanding work of popular history, in the spirit of William Manchester and Bruce Catton.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Superb…The book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage…[Atkinson’s] 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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With a mastery of sources that support nearly every sentence, Atkinson achieves a military history with few peers as an overview of the 1944-45 campaigns in Western Europe.”—Booklist

“The book stands out from others on World War II because it successfully explores the fallibility of participants at all levels…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.”—Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Series: The Liberation Trilogy (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Volume Three of The Liberation Trilogy edition (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250037816
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250037817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,454 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of six works of narrative military history, including The Guns at Last Light, The Day of Battle, An Army at Dawn, The Long Gray Line, In the Company of Soldiers, and Crusade. He also was the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by National Geographic. He was a reporter, foreign correspondent, war correspondent, and senior editor at The Washington Post for more than twenty years. His many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history, the George Polk Award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. He lives in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.liberationtrilogy.com.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#91 in Books > History
#91 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

All three books were very well researched and written.
Mike Nelsen
Rick Atkinson's continues to provide great history accounts of WWII...well researched and documented.
Octafoil
For anyone interested in WWII I highly recommend it as a good read.
John D. Berry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm using a D-Day comparison to start this review, but top to bottom, this volume is far more than that. By the end of its prologue, the narrative was already more intense than many comprehensive histories of World War II - and by the time the readers arrives at the ghastly Hurtgen Forest, D-Day is a distant memory.

With so many books and research available about WWII, I don't know that I'd call any one volume (or three in this trilogy's case) truly 'definitive.' However, author Rick Atkinson has provided what the best history does, and that's the motivation to learn even more. As I read this volume, I found myself drawn to do further research into things I'd never heard of - Operation Dragoon in southern France for example - or more details about the landing craft used on D-Day, or more about the mistakes made during the campaign around Antwerp.

This is hardly because Atkinson left out information - his amazingly seamless narrative weaves personal stories of soldiers both high ranking and low, with researched documentation from many sources. Unlike historical accounts that keep the reader "above" the action, he very deftly immerses the reader in the tactical battles as easily as the overall strategy. It's never a 'dry' faceless history - the battered humans on the ground, whether it's Eisenhower or a junior private, are almost always the focus. Occasionally, he will offer a quote from a deceased soldier's letter to give a heartbreaking end to a chapter, reminding the reader of the human cost.

And what a cost. We as a country have grown so spoiled over the last 10 years of war, and expectations of easy victories, that WWII becomes difficult to relate to - friendly fire on D-Day killed hundreds of soldiers.
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205 of 215 people found the following review helpful By Severian TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Yes, the third volume of the Liberation Trilogy really is _that_ good. The Guns At Last Light (hereafter GALL) is a fitting conclusion to Atkinson's excellent series, and is a triumph despite the very tough competition. Volumes One and Two were confronting a (relative) dearth of recent popular works on the African and Mediterranean campaigns, but the main Western Front narrative of combat in France and Germany has been covered in history literature by numerous recent and widely read works by such credible historians as John Keegan, Carlo D'Este, Max Hastings, and Antony Beevor along with second tier "rah rah" populists like Stephen Ambrose and older works that still stand up like those by Cornelius Ryan. Could Atkinson add anything new to such well-trodden ground?

He can and does. Here are just a few reasons why Atkinson is at the top of his field:

1) Journalistic integrity. Atkinson is scrupulously fair in covering the controversial personalities and campaign controversies of the Western Front. He presents evidence pro and con, gives impressions of contemporaries that show all valid opinions, and judiciously weighs in with his own tempered assessment. Hastings in comparison is much more opinionated and lets his strong biases show clearly in discussions of events and persons. Hastings can be fun to read because of his vehemence and wit, and I happen to agree with most of his assessments, but at the same time I wouldn't assign his books for a college course or recommend them to a friend who knew nothing about the subject. Atkinson builds his assessments carefully and prudently, and this allows a newcomer or objective reader to reach their own conclusions as to whether they agree or disagree with the author.
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105 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on April 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rick Atkinson in The Guns at Last Light has written a masterful account of the war in Europe from the landings at Normandy to the surrender of the German Army. This final installment of the Liberation Trilogy is perhaps the best of the three books (my opinion only).

While The Guns at Last Light is factually correct, Atkinson provides so much more to this history. He manages to paint commanders on both sides in a revealing light adding so much more to his work. He also intelligently deals with mistakes by allied commanders that cost hundreds and even thousands of deaths and amplified the successes of the German commanders who were every bit as good and bad as ours.

Chapter 9, The Bulge, serves as an example. Atkinson provides so much detail in his material that it is mind blowing. The famous response my McAuliffe, commander of the forces at Bastogne is a case in point. Of course, the Germans wanted Bastogne because it was a major crossroads in the area. The Germans demanded that the American's surrender. McAuliffe's reply of "Nuts" while clear to us was confusing to the Germans. The German read the reply and asked if the answer was "negative or affirmative?"

"The reply is decidedly not affirmative," the American said. "If you don't understand what "nuts" means, in plain English it is the same as `go to hell. We will kill every godd..m German that tries to break into this city."

"We will kill many Americans. This is War."

While many Americans are familiar with the "nuts" response, most, at least for me, have never heard the rest of the tale.

The book is populated with intelligent (for a change) maps that actually communicate information.
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