The Rising Tide
After an introduction, which whisks the reader through the events leading up World War II and into the early years of the war, Shaara’s latest history lesson opens on the North African campaign in May 1942, just prior to the battle for Tobruk. Rommel has the British forces on the run, but he knows the entrance of the United States into the war will cause problems for the German war machine. He is already saddled with poor supply lines and shoddy leadership from the Italian high command. When Montgomery takes over command of the British forces and defeats Rommel at El Alamein, the tide in North Africa turns. The landing of American forces in the west, to Rommel’s rear, puts Rommel in an untenable situation. The rest, as they say, is history.
Shaara’s trademark is his tight adherence to actual events and, where possible, actual conversations. The “fiction” comes in when he fills in the conversational blanks where no record exists. Still, he’s so good at it you have to believe his educated guesses must be close to spot on. This rare talent enables the reader to really get to know the people who made history and gain an appreciable insight into the dynamics and emotions involved: Rommel’s frustration with his superiors, the animosity between Patton and Montgomery, the awesome balancing act that Eisenhower had to maintain through the entire war. This is history as it should be learned, for it gives the reader a true understanding of events, rather than just memorization of dates and facts. When I reached the end of the book, which concludes in late 1943 as the Allies are planning Operation Overlord, I was still eager for more. I can’t wait for the next course.