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Ortona: Canada's Epic World War II Battle Paperback – May 19, 2004
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"Mark Zuehlke's book is a heart-stopping intimate look at all the brutal excesses of war...it is a fascinating read, rich in anecdotes." (Toronto Star 2003-03-07)
"Zuehlke brings the battle for Ortona and the men who fought it back to life...This is a book which reveals what war is really like." (Esprit de Corps 2003-03-07)
About the Author
Mark Zuehlke is the winner of the 2014 Pierre Berton Award: the Governor General's History Award for Popular Media. In 2006, his Canadian Battle Series book Holding Juno won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. He has also written six historical works outside of the series, including For Honour’s Sake (Knopf Canada), which won the 2007 Canadian Author’s Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History. He lives in Victoria, BC.
Top customer reviews
These books are extremely readable and leave little to the imagination. The author uses personal accounts and has researched details very well.
The sacrifice made by these men at Ortona, and their relentless pursuit of victory in capturing this small coastal Italian town is nothing short of amazing.
Although they fought shoulder to shoulder with the British and Americans, many would say the Canadians haven't received their due for their sacrifices in World War 2. The battle for Ortona is an example of this. I've read many books about wars, particularly the Civil War, WW 1 and WW 2, and had never even heard of Ortona.
Mind you, this book isn't all about the Canadians. Zuehlke also describes the incredible suffering endured by the Italians during the battle, as well as the bravery shown by an enemy who realized they could not win the war. A first-rate book.
Clocking in at 382 pp. of formal prose, with an additional 44 pp. for Appendices, Notes and Bibliography, "Ortona" may be a bit long for many readers given that it is dedicated to a single battle period of relatively limited geography, in an oft considered secondary theatre (Italy), away from the more famous and main action (Monte Cassino and Liri Valley), fought by a comparatively small contingent of men from a lesser partner (in fact at that time Canada was considered part of the British Commonwealth forces) in the Grand Allied Coalition. However, Zuehlke does not waste words and his prose flows extremely well, keeping the readers interest throughout. So do not be deterred by the length of a book that may seem 'fringe' at first glance. The story deserves to be told and moreover warrants being read by an audience wider than one limited by nationalistic (Canadian) interest. Most American (and likely British) readers are enamored by stories of their own countrymen and even the Germans in the Second World War, but are much less likely to pick up a book dealing with one of the lesser partners (or even the largest partner - USSR). Here's a chance to pick up a really solid read that will expand your horizons.
Zuehlke does a bang up job researching his topic (as demonstrated by the 44 pp. of Appendices, Notes and Bibliography) and he presents his history with an 'academic' due that is not short on literary flair. There is plenty of human story here, lots of 'bang-em-up, shot-em-up' stuff, and yet he does not sacrifice the meat of history. "Ortona" is worthy of the men who fought in this portion of the war and deserves two hearty thumbs up (4.5stars).