Maybe the worst post title ever. Sorry.
#43 -- "Eclipse" by Alan Moorehead
As I've said before, not much of a war book fan, which is why this has sat on my shelf for nearly a decade. I'm sorry I waited that long (as is frequently the case when I finally get around to these old newspaper review copies), as this is a lot more interesting than I expected.
I took it to be military history -- something I realize takes a lot of research and brainpower, but is just not my bag. I don't know how many people are in divisions, how many people are in a company, so forth -- pincer movements leave me cold.
There is indeed a fair amount of that in "Eclipse," and my eyes did glaze over in those sections, but it's much much more than that. Moorehead accompanied the Allies, first in the invasion of Italy, then on D-Day, then in the invasion of Germany -- and he was not hanging back in any. So it's a bit of an understatement to say that he saw quite a bit.
For a book written so close to the events it covered, by someone not too detached from those events, it's remarkably restrained and level-headed. "Eclipse" is most noteworthy for its calm analysis of the people encountered along the way, and how they had reacted to being occupied and then liberated, or occupiers and then conquered.
Along the way, there's some memorable scenes. Enjoying the Sicilian sun, drinking wine and awaiting the invasion of mainland Italy, a bit that seems straight out of Patrick Leigh Fermor; celebrating the fall of Paris, only to have collaborationist snipers open fire on the jubilant crowds; watching the bombing of a German city from an abandoned holiday villa on the other side of the Rhine; flying over Denmark on liberation day, looking down at a sea of national flags.
That's two World War II books (along with "The Stalin Front") this year -- probably the last for a while. "Eclipse" was good enough to make me think I've hit one of the best of the lot.