Barbara Avon has done it again! A fantastic set of vignette stories wrapped around a creative theme. Each story is self-contained and each has an unexpected twist at the end. Even the intro: "Each room is its own unique story; each chapter, a room. Check in at Owl Eyes and stay a spell, won't you? There's always room for the dead."
The reader quickly understands the theme/the format; the enjoyment is unimpeded and the twist, even though you know it is coming, is still thrilling each and every time!
My one negative is that some of the vignettes are too short, I wish for more detail, a larger story, a fuller treatment of the characters. More!
Owl Eyes is short, 100 pages in the paperback, but the writing is vivid, exciting, tight, and full. My biggest complaint is there is not more of it.
This book lives up to its hype. Atkinson manages to weave a narrative where all the elements of the war in North Africa are skillfully woven into a single whole - the grand politics that so vexed Eisenhower, the commanders of the units - especially American, French and British, and the individual soldiers themselves. Most importantly he weaves a story of the growth of the Americans - the men and the leaders - one could weave a metaphor of the army as a child, learning its way. Atkinson compares the novice Americans, at all levels, with the veteran British and Germans. Well illustrated with maps and photos this is a must have for those interested in World War II, right on the book shelf with The Longest Day and Guadalcanal Diary.
This is a classic naval history of the American Revolution, including accounts of the various state navies as well as the Congressional navy. Volume I includes activities through 1778. Well researched, footnoted, and with an extensive bibliography of contemporary sources, this is, as a later historian said, "the place for all naval historians of this war to begin".
Allen delves into the various committees and their often conflicting orders, the issues with prizes and privateers, as well as the ships, their captains, and the many, many naval engagements of the war. He also discusses strategic issues faced by both the British and the Americans and shows both successes and failures. Finally, he also includes discussions of the politics, especially between France and Britain in regard to the support or lack of it to the American cause.
Volume 2 covers the second half of the war, spending a considerable amount of space on John Paul Jones and his actions around the British Isles, especially the battle off Flamborough Head. There is a full chapter on the disastrous Penobscot Expedition. Finally, time is also spent on the difficulties in outfitting in France, the fate of prisoners captured in merchant prizes, in privateers, and in the navies.
All in all, this set is well recommended for anyone interested in the naval aspects of the war. The one missing aspect is that of the French, Spanish, and British, with only short mention being given to large fleet actions like the Virginia Capes and the battles in the Caribbean. However, for the war as the Americans fought it, this is an invaluable work.
I wanted to like this book. It is about a part of World War II I have studied little. It is written from an overview perspective, so one should be able to get a good understanding of the theatre. But it was a disaster.
From simple factual errors (p. 88 the Mitchell bomber has only TWO engines), to a clear misunderstanding of military units (p. 146 where the 7th Division is described as having only 2 battalions - a full division has between 6 and 12 battalions plus various other formations), to maps that have none of the locations mentioned in the text they are accompanying, to inconsistency from one paragraph to the next (pp. 101-2 where 75 bombers become 93, unless it was really 108, just a few paragraphs later) Duffy is all over the place.
Unfortunately, he is no better with the people. He gives brief biographies of the players - leaders mostly but some common soldiers too - and they sound good, until they don't. One general is noted as having been commissioned in 1923 but only two pages later to have distinguished himself in World War One when he was but a teen, though no further mention is given.
To round it out, Duffy's descriptions of terrain are also challenged. In one chapter he tells how the Allies decide to build three large airfields in a place which, just two pages before, he has described as having rough mountains marching to within a hundred meters of a mangrove jungle lined shore. Doesn't sound like any place for a large flat airfield!
I'll continue to look for a good history of the Second World War in New Guinea. This is not it.
In The Honourable Company, John Keay takes a long hard look at the "Company of Adventurers Trading in the East Indies". His account is frank and direct, taking to task many of his predecessors and many of the myths of the mighty East India Company. He pulls into his narrative both the personalities of the Company in the "field", i.e. outside of London, from scattered attempts at settlement in South Africa, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf, to the much better known adventures on the Indian subcontinent. He also ties in the various ventures in Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula, and China and Japan. Against these personalities, their complex motivations, many of them less than stalwart, Keay also arranges the personalities in London in government and in the Company whose interests were often in opposition to those in the field, though the could also be of tremendous assistance. Finally, Keay brings into the story the many native rulers and the push and pull they exerted, often in opposition to their long-term self-interest.
Somehow, Keay is able to keep the reader on track, making sure we understand who the players are, where events are unfolding, and the various factors affecting the result. There is a lot of detail; the book is not for the casual reader or the faint-hearted. However, for one interested in how Britain became an Imperial Power almost in spite of itself, or how the decay of the Moghul Empire and the factions within the other native rulers both assisted and thwarted the Company, or how the Europeans engaged for over 200 years in violent conflict with each other in this area, despite peace in Europe, this is a fantastic read.
Lipscombe tells a detailed and well researched and documented history of the British artillery of the Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars. He details the tension between Wellington and his artillery leaders brought about in no small part by the dual nature of the command structure from London where the artillery technically was not part of Wellington's line of command.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)