Friday, September 23, 2011

Review of "Erich von Manstein" by Benoit Lemay

I purchased this book because I don't have a lot of resources or knowledge about the Eastern Front. I got it as a History Book Club monthly recommendation. It is a decent overview of Manstein's military career. Manstein was a knowledgable, talented soldier. I learned a lot from it. It does have a lot of information even if much of it was drawn from secondary sources. It served its purpose. My favorite part of the book was actually before Manstein moved to the Eastern Front, but I did learn more about the east.

My issues with the book are based on the insistence by the author and the repeated assertions that Manstein was complicit in the war crimes committed by the National Socialist Party. An entire chapter is devoted to the Wehrmacht's participation and Manstein's role, but it creeps into the entire book. I don't doubt that Manstein had more knowledge about what was going on than he later claimed. It would be impossible for him not to know. I just didn't need to keep getting beat over the head about it with so many incidents, anecdotal stories, and statistics. The author kept pointing it out over and over, and it got tedious. I would have liked to see brief mentions of activities that Manstein denied and evidence to the contrary. Then let it go and get back to the story. Much of what the author claims is speculation, anyway.

I also found the book dragged at times. The writing was a bit stilted, and it took months for me to finish this book. I generally read books relatively fast, but I sometimes had to lay it aside and read something more interesting. I did manage to finish it, and I found it educational. It was just a bit boring, and there's no reason for World War II to be boring. That might be because of the previous issue I mentioned or because it contains a lot of details without a lot of narrative. It reads a little like a textbook. As mentioned in a previous review, there is almost no mention of Manstein's personal life. A bit of that might have helped offset the textbook feel.

I recommend the book to expand someone's knowledge base about the Eastern Front, but not for a "sit down and enjoy it" read. It's not a horrible book, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. It'll go on my shelf with my other WW-II books, but I don't think I'll be reading it cover to cover again.         

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