Saturday, 12 March 2011

Off the Bookshelf

This is something I've wanted to do for a while an infrequent little column about what I'm reading or have just read recently. It will probably give clues to what is interesting me the world of wargaming as well. Obviously it will be my opinions only for good or bad. First up....

Monte Cassino by Matthew Parker.  Not a new book I know and my paperback copy has sat on the bookshelf  for probably nearly two years before I finally got round to read it. The quote on the front cover just about sums up this book. It is one of these rare history books which, you cannot put down. Very, very good. 

Monte Cassino is probably one of those battles, which has fascinated me since childhood, and I've read various accounts, and watched documentaries on the subject, but this is the first time I could actually recall reading such a compelling account. Parker does not pull his punches with graphic descriptions of the battle(s), largely drawn from first hand accounts of survivors and some times from accounts of those who did not survivor the battle.

The narrative switches back and forth between accounts of the British/Commonwealth and American assaults to take the town and the monastery. But also covers in some detail the French attacks, which may have succeeded in flanking the monastery, and thus preventing the bloody stalemate which developed,  if they had been given more support. Within all this are stories concerning the Gurkha's, Indian's, New Zealanders and of course the Polish troops who eventually captured the monastery. Accounts by Italian's and the German defenders are all included.

If I was to be critical, I would have liked more accounts from the German defenders, these seem to be lacking, even though Chapter 14 is titled Green Devils of Cassino. The first half of the chapter relates to accounts from the German paratroopers defending Cassino and then switches to Allied accounts again. Admittedly every book can only include so much, but this account could have easily had a further 100 pages added or more and it would not have slowed up the narrative.

If you're interested in World War Two history and in particular the Italian campaign, then buy this book and read it. I bought my copy from amazon. With Afterthebattle  due to release Monte Cassino Then and Now, I'm looking forward to adding a copy to my collection to continue my study of this campaign.

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