I don’t read nearly enough. Instead, I end up wasting precious hours watching TV or surfing the web looking at porn. However, when I do find a good book, I can’t put it down. Finishing the book becomes my solitary focus. My dad passed along a copy of Jeff Shaara’s The Steel Wave, and I can’t put the thing down!
The book is historical fiction about World War II, examining the build up to Operation Overload, the Allied invasion at Normandy, all the way through to the removal of Germany’s forces from France. Jeff takes his readers through the intensity of war. There are times where I literally could not put the book down because I needed to learn the outcome of a particular situation, or read about how a massive hurdle was overcome. The book is at times gripping, funny, intense, and thoroughly enjoyable.
What sets this book apart from others I’ve read is the masterful job Jeff does providing the reader with multiple points of view, typical of a Jeff Shaara book. Instead of one main character, Jeff puts you in the shoes of all sorts of characters. In one chapter you’re embodying Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower, learning about the amazing tentacles involved with Operation Overload. The next chapter might be from the perspective of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel as he fights Germany’s High Command seeking additional resources to shore up defenses for an invasion the Command is certain will arrive at Calais, not Normandy. Many of the chapters focus on a who’s who list of World War II luminaries, including General George Patton, British Prime Minster Winston Churchill, the aforementioned Eisenhower and Rommel, as well as others who played major roles in the defining moments of the war.
But wait, there’s more! The story isn’t told from just the top echelon. No! You get to hear from a paratrooper, Sargent Jesse Adams, as he fights his way through France. There are some masterful chapters covering rifleman Tommie Thorne’s landing at Omaha Beach and the chaos he encounters. The book leads off with an engrossing story from the perspective of a British Commando doing a reconnaissance mission on Omaha Beach looking for rock samples to bring back to the scientists who will use the samples to determine if heavy equipment, such as tanks, can be offloaded onto the sand.
There are so many fascinating stories woven throughout the book. Not all of them are as engrossing as others. Some of the politicking within the high command drags on a bit, as do a few of the parts where the author spends pages describing the arduous work that goes into sneaking through high grass while carrying a Thompson sub-machine gun. However, overall it’s a very compelling read, one I’ve enjoyed considerably.
I’ve also enjoyed Jeff’s other books, The Last Full Measure and Gods and Generals. Both discuss the US Civil War in a similar fashion – focusing on the perspectives of both the Generals and the men actually fighting the war. They are a continuation of his late father Michael’s terrific book The Killer Angels, which was adapted into my all time favorite movie about the Civil War, Gettysburg. Great storytelling from both Michael and Jeff!
However, if you’re interested in reading about World War 2, going beyond troop movement maps and philosophical/political discussions, I strongly suggest The Steel Wave. Pick up a copy today!