Book Review: D-Day Repulsed: Small Arms Decide The Fate In Normandy: An Alternative History Novel
When I started this blog, I knew that I would want to review alternate history books, movies, and TV shows. I knew that I was not the only person who enjoyed this type of fiction and having reviews of this type of fiction would be beneficial for the entire community.
This will be my first of what I expect to be many reviews. I will make certain that how I obtained the book or show to review will always be listed as well as the price paid if a price was paid for it, in the interest of full disclosure.
I have chosen to review D-Day Repulsed: Small Arms Decide the Fate in Normandy: An Alternative History Novel by Claude Stahl as my first book to review. I purchased it via Amazon for $2.99 mainly on the idea that it looked interesting. I always found What If? situations surrounding D-Day to be quite interesting and I looked forward to getting an interesting telling of how the invasion might have gone differently.
Please note spoilers for the story will exist in this review and in all others that I publish.
The synopsis from Amazon is below:
It is the spring of 1944 and the outcome of World War II hangs in the balance, everything now hinges on an imminent Allied Invasion into France, D-Day. If the invasion is successful the Allies win, if it fails Germany will be the victor.
Field Marshal Rommel is convinced a change in strategy and new weapons will stop the Allies, all he has to do is to convince the Fuhrer and The German High Command before it is too late.
Meanwhile, two brothers stand on the opposite side of the channel, each one dedicate to his own particular band of brothers. In occupied France a young German soldier stands alongside his fellow troops, despite his apprehension at what lies ahead he knows he must do everything to fulfil his duties and maintain his honor in the oncoming hell that will be the battle for the beaches.
In England an ambitious young GI has completed his training and impatiently awaits the order to embark on the boats heading for the Normandy beaches, knowing that when he disembarks he will be facing the guns and might of the German Army, and haunted by the thought that his own brother is somewhere in occupied Europe.
In this exciting historical fantasy novel that explains Rommel’s alternative strategy and explores what could have been the outcome if he had won his struggle with his own high command, we experience the daily life and preparations of ordinary soldiers as invasion nears, and through explicit battle scenes, explore the bloody horror of the D-Day invasion through the eyes of two brothers whom fate has cast on opposing sides.
Now I noticed a few things in this synopsis that were a bit troubling from the onset, particularly the grammar/misspelling in a few points. I overlooked that though as I myself am not great with the the written word sometimes. I can deal with some minor issues as long a story is compelling enough.
Well this is one of those cases that poor editing really caused the entire book to suffer. Some of the issues were in my mind minor such as some weird page breaks and font size issues throughout the book. I can deal with such simple issues. The stuff that was harder to deal with was stuff like one whole chapter repeating itself and then another few pages repeating themselves later on. This is the type of editing mistake that can make a book unreadable.
Then we move from editing to simply understanding the source material and the time period being written about. When discussing Hitler, the author called him “Fuehrer” as opposed to “Fuhrer” . This was almost universal throughout the book. Pillboxes became “Pillow-boxes” which I looked up and could not find any other source for which leads me to assume that this is another editing error. Then we came to a few turns of phrase that I found to be too modern for the time period such as the phrase “stepping out”, calling the medics “paramedics” and the ambulances became “Red Cross” trucks.
I found one particularly modern nuance to be annoying as I read it. The term “assault rifles” appeared multiple times. Now by itself that would be fine since the very first assault rifle appeared in World War II and was fielded by the Nazi’s. But when that rifle is mentioned, the MP-44 or StG-44, the author called it a sub-machine gun with the implication that some other rifle was the “assault rifle” in question. This was something that really pulled me out as a reader as I understand quite a bit about WWII weapons as well as modern weaponry.
To round out the negative commentary we had American soldiers being allowed off base right up to the day of embarkation which from my reading is dubious at best as most soldiers were confined to bases once operation plans started to become known among staffs. Finally I found the story line of two brothers separated by the war and on opposing sides not fleshed out enough to make me care that they were brothers and when they were reunited I not only expected it to happen, I had no emotional connection to it and it could have just been another soldier on the beach being found.
This book was not without its good points though. First and foremost, I learned something very important in regards to saluting in the Nazi army at the time. I had always believed the ‘Nazi’ salute was used by all of the military and when I was researching due to my concerns about the Germans being shown to salute like normal soldiers, I found out that the Nazi salute was not mandated until after the July 20th assassination attempt.
The point of divergence was that Field Marshall Rommel is able to get some of what he had wanted in defending the French coast from the allies. He was not able to get much of the tank reserves but he was allowed to concentrate on smaller more numerous defensive guns as opposed to large cannons designed for combating capital ships. This strategy is one that could have seen quite a different outcome in our timeline if it had been employed successfully. Destroying the smaller landing craft and mid-sized landing craft and focusing the battle on those troops before they could hit the beach would have made much more tactical sense than large bunkers that were focusing on larger ships and much easier to knock out due to how hard it was to disguise them. I think this point of divergence was a solid one and I wish that this story line as well as the German High Command discussions had been better fleshed out and the brother story discarded in full.
I know how hard it is to write for an audience, my own endeavor is 10+ years in the making with more to go but I feel that when you couple some story decisions & terminology usage with poor editing, this book was not anything special. It had glimmers of hope and greatness but just when you thought it might make a turn, another editing gaffe or another term such as “pillow-box” would pop up and take the reader out of the story.
I hope this review has been helpful to people looking for good alternative history reads. I hope that the author invests some more time in editing and learning more about the terminology in use during the time period he is writing. I wish him all the best of luck.