From Publishers Weekly
After years of relative neglect, historians of WWII are rediscovering the savage fighting in North Africa and developing a renewed appreciation of its importance. Rick Atkinson's superb An Army at Dawn
(2002) approached the subject from an American perspective. Now comes British journalist and historian Holland with a compelling and detailed account of the same campaign. Holland (Fortress Malta
) picks up in 1942, following two years of desultory fighting in the North African desert. The decision of the Anglo-American alliance to invade Northwest Africa first—instead of France—transformed the desert campaign into a major front. Early fighting favored the Axis since the British suffered from "interwar apathy" and inferior equipment, and the Americans were also plagued by inexperience, inadequate training and poor leadership. But the Allies learned from their setbacks and eventually drove the Axis out of Africa. Despite personality clashes, the Americans and the British learned to collaborate, setting the stage for "the strongest military alliance in history." Entertaining though scholarly, this exhaustively researched narrative moves seamlessly from the exalted strategy conferences of generals and presidents to the individual grunt on the front line, offering as complete a portrait of this important episode in WWII as we are likely to see. (Feb. 15)
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Britain's North Africa campaigns are one of the most heavily documented topics in World War II history. Perhaps this is because they were the last continental-scale military operations Britain independently undertook; add to that the characters of Rommel and Montgomery and the turning point of El Alamein, and it's no wonder authors keep at it. In a narrative that accentuates personalities representative of every echelon from platoon to supreme command, Holland (Fortress Malta,
2003) begins with the third year of the North Africa war. In 1942 Tobruk falls, and British commander Auchinleck retreats and stabilizes the line at El Alamein but is sacked for his pains. Holland's continuation of the story to the surrender of Axis forces in May 1943, flavored with his tendency to kibitz about strategy and tactics, will keep readers engaged, and his interviews of veterans, which are incorporated into the text, lend immediacy. Relying heavily on extant accounts to relate the American contribution to the victory, Holland reliably steers readers through the culmination of the North Africa saga. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved