|(C) 2013, Henry Holt and Co|
The trilogy consists of the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943; The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944; and The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe 1944-1945. Published over a period of 11 years, these works showcase some of the best historical writing about World War II since Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far came out in 1974.
(Want to read my reviews of the three books? Just click on the links you see on the preceding paragraph.)
The definitive chronicle of the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II, Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy is now together in one boxed set
From the war in North Africa to the invasion of Normandy, the Liberation Trilogy recounts the hard fought battles that led to Allied victory in Second World War. Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author Rick Atkinson brings great drama and exquisite detail to the retelling of these battles and gives life to a cast of characters, from the Allied leaders to military rifleman in combat. His accomplishment is monumental: The Liberation Trilogy is the most vividly told, brilliantly researched World War II narrative to date. - Publisher's blurb, us.macmillan.com
How good are these books?
As the reviewer for the Chicago Tribune wrote about Atkinson in a review of An Army at Dawn, Atkinson is a "[m]aster of the telling profile... This vivid, personality-driven account of the campaign to drive Axis forces from North Africa shows the political side of waging war, even at the tactical level."
And the citation for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for history says, in part, that the book is "a monumental history of the overshadowed combat in North Africa during World War II that brings soldiers, generals, and bloody battles alive through masterful storytelling."
The critics also hailed The Day of Battle and The Guns at Last Light as worthy heirs to The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far. The New York Times’ reviewer hailed The Day of Battle as "a triumph of narrative history, elegantly written, thick with unforgettable description and rooted in the sights and sounds of battle."
In 2013, Britain's eminent historian Max Hastings wrote in his Wall Street Journal review of The Guns at Last Light: “A magnificent book… Though the story may seem familiar, I found surprising detail on every page… Atkinson’s account of D-Day is both masterly and lyrical… [He] is an absolute master of his material.”
So, yes, these are extremely good books, and definitely worthy additions to any history buff's collection.
Now, I don't always buy books in hardcover editions; they're expensive (each book in The Liberation Trilogy costs $40, unless you get it at Amazon or the Barnes & Noble website). I usually purchase big books in their softcover editions, which usually cost around half the price of the original hardbacks.
I also hardly ever buy box sets, much less hardcover box sets unless they're reference works related to topics I love (The Star Trek Encyclopedia two-volume set comes to mind). If you think single-volume hardcovers are pricey, think about how expensive multiple volume sets can be.
The asking price for The Liberation Trilogy, if you order it from Powell's or Indie Bound, is $120.00 plus shipping and handling. This, folks, is too expensive for me.
However, Amazon and B&N.com offer The Liberation Trilogy box set for a bit less than that. The former site sells the collection for $63.31 (with free shipping for Amazon Prime members), while Barnes and Noble's online price is $74.01. That's still expensive, but still 38% off the publisher's asking price.
I chose to get this box set because I've already worn out my first paperback edition of An Army at Dawn and was rarely handling the replacement copy, which was also in paperback. I once owned the hardcover of The Day of Battle, but it suffered extensive water damage a few years ago when a pipe broke in the bathroom next to my bedroom and flooded much of the upstairs half of the house. I replaced it with the paperback edition in 2014, but I only re-read it once so it would not get dog-eared.
At first, I figured I'd get each book individually, but when I saw that Amazon was selling the box set at 47% of the suggested price, I couldn't resist. (I had enough Amazon Shop with Points rewards, too, so I used some of them to help pay my order.)
The box set is about as good as you can expect from such items. Including the slipcover, the three-book collection weighs 7.7 pounds. Its total dimensions are 6.5 x 5.2 x 9.6 inches, so make sure you have space in your bookshelves for it. I tried to put it in the same space where the older copies of The Liberation Trilogy had been, but the paperbacks are slightly smaller, so I had to rearrange other books on the bookshelf to get this set to fit properly.
The slipcover is made of thick, sturdy paperboard. The spine features photos of the author and the three books of The Liberation Trilogy; the front and back cover are graced with the photo used on the front cover of The Guns at Last Light and the titles of the book arranged from top to bottom. It highlights the Pulitzer Prize-winning status earned by An Army at Dawn, and the design is rather nice.
If you haven't purchased Atkinson's thrilling-yet-elegaic look at how the Allies created the long-awaited Second Front that prevented Hitler from defeating the Soviet Union and formed one half of the vise that crushed Nazi Germany from the east and west, then The Liberation Trilogy might be right for you. It's pricey, even with Amazon and B&N's huge discounts, but it's a box set worth getting.