This is a phenomenal book that any military enthusiasts will adore. The problem is in the book’s description; this is more than about author Frank Clark, this is about the big picture. Nor is Clark necessarily clear in his own introduction. Let me explain.
Clark keeps referring to his analogy as being a thread, but it took me a while to get the gist of it. What he’s saying is: he is gathering many (MANY!) stories of World War II and using them as “pearls” that he, as the thread, is stringing together. Clark himself is awesome—he’s the b****s in the tank—but his story goes much beyond his seat in the tank.
The book’s description also refers to Clark as having fought in other wars and being a member of intelligence during the Cold War era. This is true about him, but not what the book is about. The book begins with the prep for Normandy and ends with the liberation of the concentration camps. And it is amazing throughout. Clark ends the book by referring to his “top secret” journal about this other stuff, but this book is all about the European campaign of World War II.
To continue his analogy, Clark is woven of beautiful thread. His writing is crisp and picturesque—even when some of those pictures are brutal and stomach-churning. The author is an intelligent man that writes well and has numerous connections. He knows German. He knows Dutch. And if you can see where I’m going with this, he takes stories from people from ALL perspectives—from the German soldiers to the people being liberated in Brussels. Yeah, it’s good reading.
Let’s continue this analogy even more: there are a few knots in the thread. In this case, it is not Clark, but the editors. Normally I would attribute these errors to my galley print, but I received my review copy post-publication. For instance, look at the preview on Amazon. See that quote from Churchill? Awesome, right? It is used again, verbatim, to introduce another chapter in the book. See that opening line (“As a nation, we stood backs to the wall and alone, ready to fight like a trapped tiger.”) stirs the emotion, but that gets repeated later on in the same chapter. Good stuff, but they are weird hiccups.
The other issue is the start of this “thread”. We have a reference letter (skip), an introduction (fantastic), and a preface (skip). Some of you might be interested in this, but outside from the general World War II overview in the introduction, a lot of it was redundant and even off-putting.
My last suggestion would be to include more guides to help the reader: more maps, more definitions, and more general help. The maps (and pictures!) included were great, but I wanted more. The way the author broke out the German names for the concentration camps and what they meant and were used for in the last chapter was also great; I could have used that same format at the beginning when he was talking about the Guards and their different functions.
Bottom line: this is an awesome book that deserves a spot on any history buff’s shelf. If you enjoyed the movie BAND OF BROTHERS, then you’ll totally dig this. If you just want to learn more about the Great War, then this book is an excellent resource for you.
Thank you to Matador for providing me with a review copy of this book. You can grab a copy for yourself here: We Were Brothers In Arms.