The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau

Alex Kershaw, Author
Alex Kershaw. Crown, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-307-88799-3
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In his latest WWII narrative, Kershaw (The Longest Winter) examines the war through the experiences of Felix Sparks, an American law student–turned–soldier who saw action in some of the bloodiest campaigns of 1943–1945. Sparks was initially assigned as a second lieutenant with the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division (the so-called “Thunderbirds”) and ended his service as a “world-weary” lieutenant colonel. Kershaw follows Sparks and the 157th as they land at Sicily, help liberate Rome, push on through France, and are among the first American troops to enter Germany. “No force in history is thought to have freed so many people and marched so far to do so,” Kershaw proclaims. But the darkest moment comes when the soldiers liberate the concentration camp at Dachau, which pushes many of them to the breaking point. While Kershaw’s prose can be purplish, he is a captivating narrator, hammering home the chaos and carnage of war, sparing no sensory detail to paint a cohesive picture. Kershaw’s portrayal of his subject (based on interviews with Sparks, who died in 2007, and other survivors) makes for a riveting, almost epic tale of a larger-than-life, underappreciated figure. 16 pages of b&w photos, and photos throughout, 13 maps. Agent: Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary Management. (Oct. 30)
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