The regular decennial commemorations of D-Day show no sign of abating, as a fresh crop of books fill the shelves with the onset of the 70th anniversary. Among them is this offering from Jonathan Mayo, who retells the story from a fresh perspective by describing the events of 6 June (and the previous day) on a virtual minute-by-minute basis. As the author states in his introduction, this is not a military history but a chronologically arranged series of stories from those involved that includes the experiences of British, Americans, Germans and French, servicemen and civilians alike.
The emphasis is very much on human interest, and Mayo does an excellent job in deploying his material and letting his chosen individuals tell their stories. They range from the famous weather forecast given by Group Captain James Stagg that gave the invasion the go-ahead, to the many individual narratives of the battle for the beaches, which includes a chilling account from a US paratrooper on the ground who observes a stick of men jumping from a Dakota: ‘The plane is so low that as they hit the ground they make the sound of ripe pumpkins bursting’.
Written in the present tense and lacking a wider historical structure, the sheer mass of stories can at times seem overwhelming, but this is not to take away from the drama and immediacy of this cleverly assembled book.
Marble Arch Press/Short Books, $25.00/£14.99, 304 pages (h/b)