Pulitzer Prize, History, 2003
The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is a story of courage and enduring triumph, of calamity and miscalculation. In this first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson shows why no modern learner can understand the ultimate victory of the Allied powers without a grasp of the great drama that unfolded in North Africa in 1942 and 1943. That first year of the Allied war was a pivotal point in American history, the moment when the United States began to act like a great power.
Beginning with the daring amphibious invasion in November 1942, An Army at Dawn follows the American and British armies as they fight the French in Morocco and Algeria, and then take on the Germans and Italians in Tunisia. Battle by battle, an inexperienced and sometimes poorly led army gradually becomes a superb fighting force. Central to the tale are the extraordinary but fallible commanders who come to dominate the battlefield: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, and Rommel.
Brilliantly researched, rich with new material and vivid insights, Atkinson's narrative provides the definitive history of the war in North Africa.
An Army at Dawn is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for History.
©2002 Rick Atkinson; 2013 Simon and Schuster
This colorful narrative history, filled with memorable details, entranced me for several weeks on my daily walks home from work, and a lot of the pleasure is due to George Guidall's extremely powerful delivery. It's so effective that I've actually gone and bought a few other books he's done (and he's done quite a lot); his reading of "Winesburg, Ohio," for example, is very skillful. I'm a bit disappointed that Guidall was not assigned the remaining two books in this Rick Atkinson WW2 trilogy; in fact, for some reason, the publishers have used three different readers, which seems rather a shame.
My only criticism of Guidall's delivery is that he indicates he's quoting someone by altering his voice to a sort of emphatic, choleric bark, and it has the effect of making all the men he's quoting sound pretty much the same, like a sort of impatient, peppery martinet, even if that characterization may not always be appropriate. But short of announcing "Quote" and "Close quote" aloud, which seems to be taboo, no one has come up with a perfect solution for indicating, in audiobooks, when words are suddenly being quoted. At least Guidall hasn't gone in for a variety of exaggerated accents, which some readers (frustrated actors?) attempt and which can be quite jarring.
As has often been pointed out in these Audible comments, it's difficult to absorb military history like this solely in audio, due to the many names and foreign place names; and yes, one does greatly miss the maps and photographs of a printed book. Yet I have to say that I own the third volume of the Atkinson trilogy -- "The Guns at Last Light" -- and though I read it with great admiration, I got bogged down halfway through and indeed have not yet finished it. For some of us, it's just easier in terms of time and energy to listen to these books on tape. If I'd tried to read "An Army at Dawn" in print, I'd probably have laid it aside, albeit with the intention of picking it up again sometime in the future.
A final note: A lot of my reading in recent years involves the war, but I knew very little about the North African campaign, the subject of this book. I therefore read a number of the Amazon comments, many of them critical (despite the book's having won the Pulitzer!), many of them by WW2 buffs who sound like they know what they're talking about. One frequent criticism seems to be that Atkinson is too hard on the U.S. military, too disparaging, too prone to dwell on the Army's mistakes. That may very well be true; I don't like writers who snipe at the military (always an easy target when one is comfortably far from the battlefield), yet I have to admit that what sticks in my mind is the appalling number of screw-ups, snafus, and needless deaths in the campaign due to carelessness or bad generalship or lack of communication between U.S. and British troops. (As someone -- Eric Larrabee? -- noted, the green, hastily assembled U.S. troops needed "a place to be lousy in.") Maybe the impression the book leaves is not balanced, but those examples of things going terribly wrong were undeniably eye-openers for me, or at least reminders of how easily, in combat, the lives of brave young men can be sacrificed for things that, in retrospect, look pretty stupid. The book did not turn me into a pacifist, by any means, but I suppose it served as a slight corrective and -- on the continuum that has, say, "Sergeant York" at one end and cynical works like "All Quiet" and "Catch-22" on the other -- it probably moved me one step closer to the latter end. It certainly made me very, very grateful that I've never known war, and grateful to my father, who did.
There was too much description from the various diaries. It was good to include enough to get a sense of the situation from the 'man on the ground' but several hours/many pages could have easily been cut out. I guess it depends on one's preferences
Narrator excellent. The US Army grows and matures in its first encounter with the Axis, from the top leadership to the men on the battlefield. Great insight into the leadership of all involved. Such courage these men had, in the face of a better trained and equipped army of the Germans. But 'right' won out.
Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great. I would recommend to any one. Really enjoyed.
I've been a WWII history fan since I was a kid (41 now), and have enjoyed many books over the years on the subject. One area I haven't really studied much is the North African campaign, so after checking out all the positive reviews on this book, I downloaded it right away.
My basic thoughts are that it's a good book with lots of detailed info, but that last bit is the biggest problem for me. I listen to audiobooks while I'm at work and I feel like there's just too much detail in this book for a casual listen while doing something else. I keep wanting to stop work and look at maps, or look up people to get an idea of where and who they are, otherwise I keep getting lost. Now, this isn't a bad thing in a book like this. You want as much detail as you can get, but it's just hard to focus (at least for me) on work and everything that's going on in the book at the same time.
I also feel like the narrator's performance is a little dry and makes it hard to listen for long. Although, lots of other people seem to like him, so that's probably just me.
Overall, I think i'd enjoy the book if I were reading it and could sit down and take my time, so I may just buy the actual book eventually, but in audiobook form, it's tough for me.
An exceptional account of Operation Torch and the Tunisian Campaign; really puts the war in North Africa in good perspective.
the sense of awful waste is just heartbreaking.
I just finished Manchester's Churchill biography, and I suppose I was expecting this kind of high level view of the war. This is not that book.
This performance is very good.
I am in the early part of the book. The Americans seem to be going out of their way to waste their tank service and perhaps the infantry. The systemic stupidity is unbeleviable.
I almost stopped listening to this book because I felt it missed the high level strategic view. But I think that isn't the point- this is all at an individual level, even if the individual is Eisenhower.
Undecided; this book chronicles some interesting background information, but it seems like every chapter details the mistakes made by allied forces. After listening to the first 2 parts, I find it difficult to believe that we ever won the campaign in Africa. The narration is average, but I expected to hear more details of combat.
No. I will look for other World War 2 books.
I don't have any issues with the performance, just the book.
Disappointment. Of course the allies made mistakes, but what did they do correctly? What good decisions were made? How about a few more stories of heroism?
The author appears to have done a great deal of research. He does reveal some interesting details and background information, but i was unable to finish the book.
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