The Mediterranean theater, to many senior American commanders, represented a sideshow, a bill of goods foist upon them by Winston Churchill and his lieutenants, or a dark hole "into which one entered at one's peril." Carlo D'Este, in this slim, concise volume covers the action from Operation TORCH and the Tunisian campaign, through the conquest of Sicily, the battles of Salerno and Anzio, down to the Axis surrender in Italy. Short specific chapters with good maps nicely explain the operational developments while short analytic thumbnails delve into the personalities and backgrounds of the senior commanders on both sides of the frontlines. D'Este combines clear prose, well thought out analysis and up to date research into this dual purpose work: if you're only interested in a general summary of the theater read this book, and stop; if you want to pursue this subject, use D'este as a starting point and, by building on his excellent bibliographic essays, expand your library. I recommend, in particular, D'Este's BITTER VICTORY (Sicily), FATAL DECISION (Anzio), and anything by Martin Blumenson.
This book was deliberately written as a summary; it was not meant to compete with the author's full length books: "Bitter Victory" and "Fatal Decision. I rated the book as a summary and consider it as good as or better than any other "short" book out there on the Med. The book begins by explaining the genesis of the Allied choice of theater, the plans for the US invasion of North Africa in Nov 42 and the defeat of von Arnim in Tunisia in May 1943. It describes the military troubles the US had in the first months of the campaign, the logistic problems Rommel experienced, Montgomery's renewed assault with a revitalized 8th Army and the final surrender of the Afrika Korp.
The author moves on to describe the planning problems of Operation Husky and then the invasion of Sicily in early July 1943. The planning problems were almost as bitter as the fighting on the island. The rest of the book deals with the planning and execution of the landing and conquering of Italy. It describes the troubles at Salerno, Anzio, Gustav Line, the Rapido River massacre, Mount Cassino. It moves on to discuss the liberation of Rome and covers the Allied offensive north of Rome to the end of the war.
Mr D'Este completes his story with his concise analysis of the campaign. He not only discusses the military, political aspects but also the personal bickering and jealousy that pervaded the Allies. He also explains the importance of this campaign to the rest of the war, particularly Operations Overlord and Dragoon and briefly the Balkans. The author also provides an interesting 6 page essay on his source material and a decent Index.
There are a number of fine short books by other noted authors of this theater but I consider D'Este's concise and unbiased presentation to be the most informative and persuasive. If your looking for a percise summary that covers the military, political and personal events in and out of the Med then you should consider this book. If this book motivates you for more info then you want the full length editions mentioned above.