The Battle for NormandyeBook - 2009
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If you are planning to read just one book on the topic of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, I suggest you read Olivier Wieviorka’s “Normandy: The Landings to the Liberation of Paris” instead. It details the events and negotiations that took place between the Allies (Britain, Russia and the United States) prior to the Normandy invasions and sets the context for the actual events that took place during the landings. Understanding the political positions of the Allies and their role during the planning for the invasion allows one to understand the historical context and significance of the invasion much more fully.
Mr. Wieviorka also describes the military actions during the invasion itself more comprehensibly that does Mr. Beevor. One gets the impression (perhaps confirmed by the extent of the Bibliography at the back of the book) that Mr. Beevor read every book ever written on the invasion and then tried to cram it all into his book. At times the book reads like a series of anecdotes, strung together to make a narrative. This, in itself, is not necessarily unwelcome, except that one gets the impression that Mr. Beevor suspended his disbelief when deciding whether to include a particular anecdote in the book. As an example, Mr. Beevor recounts the story of the Norman farmer who welcomed the liberating Americans with a round of Calvados from his cellar. After toasting the Americans and the liberation of his village, according to the story retold by Mr. Beevor, the farmer asks the Americans for 100 francs. “What for?” the American officer asks the farmer. “Why, for the drinks, of course.” replies the farmer. When the American replies that this seems a bit unfair, the farmer replies “Well, I used to charge the Germans much more!”. The credulous Mr. Beevor states that this tale is perhaps “apocryphal” when it seems obvious it is a joke, perhaps told by the Normans themselves to poke fun at their reputation for parsimony.
Mr. Beevor also seems to be determined to relate every story of every atrocity committed by either side without providing evidence that such atrocities actually took place. While I am sure that atrocities were committed, by both the Allies and the Nazis, Mr. Beevor seems to take every story of every atrocity at face value without providing an corroborating evidence. For a work purported to be a history of the conflict, one would expect to see more rigorous research.
This is not to say that you should not read this book. If you do, however, be sure to read Mr. Wieviorka’s book first, and perhaps read Mr. John Keegan’s “Six Armies in Normandy” as well. If you read these books prior to Mr. Beeor’s you will have a much better overall understanding of the D-Day invasion.
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