Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Rising Tide, by Jeff Shaara

The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II, by Jeff Shaara

Today I finally finished this book. In a word, it was awesome. Most of my readers will have little or no interest in this book; basically, it's over 500 pages of military strategy. If anyone is familiar with Shaara, they will know that he writes from the point of view of real historical figures (such as Eisenhower, Patton, Rommel, and Montgomery, etc., in this one). His book Gods and Generals spawned the film of the same name, one of my favorite movies of all time, though I actually didn't like the book very much.

This novel was a major improvement from Gods and Generals (a Civil War story). It had its battles (the highlight being the emotion, chaos and realism so seamlessly conveyed in the airborne drop and subsequent combat on Sicily). Much less of a brooding character tale and more of a military story. The vast majority of the book deals with the generals, and thus, military strategy, etc. I would recommend the book, though, as a way to learn about the war if you are not much on the real scholarly or textbook stuff.

One thing that could be considered a major "downfall" of the novel is the use of a large amount of foul language. Just about every page a character curses, using various words from the more mild ones all the way up to the Lord's name in vain. Now if you know me you know that I do not approve of cursing in any way shape or form (particularly using the name of my God), but can tolerate it, especially in this format. (Shaara treated the language issue in the foreword, explaining himself fully and, in my opinion, satisfactorily.) I mean, come on, what's the book about? War. Who are the characters? Soldiers. 'Nuff said.

What I considered to be "worse" than the cursing issue was one particular scene, on pages 41-42, where Montgomery accidentally runs into an apparent prostitute. He's disgusted of course, but admits to himself that the men (WARNING: slightly explicit) "do seem to need their horizontal refreshment." This crude description didn't please me, but actually I was grateful more was not contained in the novel. The narrator also uses phrases such as "fleshpot" and "venereal disease" here, but that is as far as it goes, unless you count the scene on page 497 when Ike is incredibly frustrated with the rivalry between Patton and Monty, lamenting that they were (WARNING: somewhat crude) "concerned with who had the biggest bulge in his pants." This didn't bother me much; crude, yes, but true? Absolutely! Anyhow, all this wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment of the novel itself.

Now I'm seriously making the book sound a lot worse than it really was. It was great, and a good history tale. If you're interested in the subject, check it out. If you aren't in the first place, you probably shouldn't bother. I would recommend it, though just to some.

One of my favorite tidbits in the book:

Alexander stopped, and Patton saw him staring out across the dirt road, saw an Arab man hoisting a water jug up onto the shoulder of a small woman. Alexander made a grunting sound, and Patton said, "Arab chivalry."
"Perhaps you and I should go over there and jolly well kick his a**."
(Page 332)

Now there's a soldier!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D.


olde.fashioned said...

Excellent review! Please write more of them, I love reading your thoughts and opinions on books. :-)

Perhaps someday when I've slogged through all my BritLit I'll give it a try. ;-)

Caleb said...

Good review. Perhaps you would also like Flags of Our Fathers about the war in the pacific. Particularly Iwo Jima.

Mada said...

I must say: that was an excellently comprehensive review! I may look for that book in the library when I've finished what I'm currently reading.

Lady Neferankh said...

Hi there--I'm olde_fashioned's friend from LiveJournal! Loved your book review, despite some of the stuff you mentioned--I will keep it in mind if I have to research WWII, one of the eras I'm "weaker" on.

Have you read "Rise to Rebellion", or "The Glorious Cause"? The last ones I think I might've liked more than "Gods and Generals"--since it dealt with one of my favorite eras, the Revolution!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Lauren: Thanks!

Caleb: I want to read that one, bad!

Mada: Thanks, you should!

Lady Neferankh: Thanks! I really want to read Shaara's other works, but have only read the two I mentioned. How was The Glorious Cause?

P.S. I forgot to mention that The Rising Tide is part 1 of a trilogy (the two sequels have not yet been released). Next up, Operation Overlord. I'm looking forward to that one. :-)

Thanks all!