Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Book Review: Band of Brothers

"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day." (Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii)

Recently I completed reading Stephen Ambrose's non-fiction book Band of Brothers : E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest (Yes, that's the complete title) and it was absolutely wonderful. For those of you uncultured swine out there who may not have realized where the title came from, yes, it's Shakespeare. In the play Henry V, King Henry prepares his troops for battle at Agincourt. The troops were sorely outnumbered and sorely fatigued, but King Henry rallies the troops with his rousing speech (an excerpt is found at the beginning of the post). Really it speaks to the brotherhood that established in war between those men who fight valiantly side by side. In the case of Easy Company, they developed this brotherhood as well. The fierceness of battle and the ability to develop a profound trust and love for those they endured combat with was what helped them to form this brotherhood.

I will admit I was first introduced to Band of Brothers by my little brothers and the HBO series. And in all honesty, if I was to pick one, I would say watch the series instead of reading the book (Of course I will also warn that the series is not for the faint of heart. The language is strong and the violence is not for the faint of heart, so viewer beware). The book was interesting because I think it helped to see more insights into what really occurred. It was such an interesting thing as I read to follow the experiences of these soldiers and their tour through Europe during World War II. These men went through some of the most trying circumstances of the war and lost a number of their friends along the way. But I think this book has value in being read because it teaches: a profound appreciation for those who have served in the military in the past and those who continue to serve today, about leadership, and about unity and brotherhood. I do highly recommend the read.

Overall it is a very well written book. Ambrose is very readable, which extends to all audiences. The storyline is rather flowing and certainly engaging. Because of the fact it follows such a chronological history you can immerse yourself in the context of the story. The characters (and yes, I use that term loosely since clearly these are real people, such as Major Dick Winters pictured left probably the main character of the story) are very likable and you grow attached to them during their journey. As far as weaknesses, I feel like there are so many different characters that it is often hard to keep them straight. I had a similar problem with that while watching the show, even though I think even fewer characters are in the show but it was hard to keep names straight. A lot of the characters in the book are so briefly introduced that you aren't sure who to expect to keep track of or not. I did appreciate the photographs included of many of the main characters to help put a face to the names. I also feel like the flow and continuity of the story really breaks down often times. I think Ambrose seeks to throw so many different aspects into the story to keep it more historical that it somewhat discounts the actual flow of the story and sometimes these inclusions seem a bit out of place.

Of course my critiques notwithstanding, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to read this book. It will give you a very different outlook toward those who have served in World War II. Here's a couple of clips from the actual show (I'll give an overall advisory here that a lot of this is strong content, I'll give a specific advisory with each clip):

The official trailer (Suitable for most audiences)

Drop on D-Day (Moderate language and violence)

Clip of the taking of Carentan (Strong language and heavy violence)


Anonymous said...

Favorite Shakespeare speech ever, followed by "Friends, Romans, countrymen...!"

The Brymers said...

Thanks for posting this Scott! It sounds like something cool I will definitely read someday.
By the way, I didn't recognize the oink :)