Jason's Reviews > Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad
Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad
by William Craig
by William Craig
Nov 06, 11
Read in November, 2011
I knew I was going to like this chronicle of history's bloodiest battle the moment I picked it up and saw The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far author Cornelius Ryan's favorable review on the back cover. Let me start by saying that this is a mammoth undertaking, one that the author spent five years preparing for with hundreds of survivor interviews and countless hours of historical research before ever writing a paragraph. My biggest critique of this work is the same as my criticisms of the two works by Ryan I just mentioned, namely that the breadth and scope of the subject matter is both the book's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Let's be fair, this was a battle that lasted six months, involved multiple Divisions of soldiers, and claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides. It's a serious challenge to balance the enormity of the movements of the armies involved while simultaneously trying to capture the human element by following individual participants' parts in the struggle with anything more than just cursory glances. Craig manages this Herculean task quite well, in my opinion, though because of the enormity of the thing it behooves the reader to keep a finger in the index in order to be able to quickly find particular persons whose exploits may have begun earlier in the text. Case in point: there's a story involving a Russian soldier that starts off (and I'm paraphrasing) "Having finally been released from the hospital after his treatment at the hands of the Germans..." and proceeds to name the soldier and tell of his next adventure in Stalingrad but makes no mention of any previous incident involving him. I recognized the name, but with so many names (all of them being Russian and German, hence none too recognizable to ol' American me) involved in the text, I had to flip back to find the previous story about this guy. Turns out it was one hundred and ten pages prior, and this guy's name hadn't come up once in the interim. To quote The Big Lebowski, "A lot of strands to keep in old Duder's head, man." It's a monster of a subject, and it's been handled very well...
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