3 out of 4 stars
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John Harding, a retired army major, works as an archivist for the Army’s Department of Records. It comes as no surprise, then, that when Julia Patton Walton comes to him with an old envelope and asks him to investigate her grandfather’s military records, he accepts without hesitation. Her grandfather, General George S. Patton, was one of the most brilliant US generals during WWII, his role crucial to the victory against the Axis.
Rescuing General Patton by Curtis Stephen Burdick is a historical fiction novel that plays with the “what-if” motif surrounding Patton’s sudden relief from command in 1943. The suspicious relief seems unjustified given General Patton’s military career and cleverness. Was there some top-secret reason for it? What did really happen on that August day in Sicily that led to the General’s discharge?
Burdick develops an intriguing and action-packed novel out of these suppositions. The book starts with an ambush in which General Patton might have likely fallen. One of the survived soldiers manages to get back to camp to report the incident exclusively to General Bradley. Bradley then organizes a top-secret mission to rescue Patton since it is crucial that no one, not even among American ranks, discovers that Patton was captured by the Germans. His identity has to remain hidden for the sake of the entire war. Bradley puts together a search party lead by Captain Pizzio for what seems to be a “suicide mission” to rescue this important General. During the mission, dotted with many incidents and deadly encounters with German soldiers, Pizzio loses a lot of his men while also meeting Giuseppe, an Italian partisan leader, who will help him in his impossible mission.
I found Rescuing General Patton to be a really riveting and gripping read. Every chapter's end left me with bated breath, anxious to find out what was going to happen in the next one. The narration was very specific, which helped to give authenticity to the story. Good historical fiction can be recognized by the tiny details, like a very good battle description or the date and time in which a particular episode took place. That is why I think Burdick did a great job in writing this novel. This book left me with a renovated feeling of respect toward people who put their lives on the line, often for missions that seem impossible but that could really change the outcome of a war.
Besides being a well-constructed story, this novel features also very well-developed characters whose personalities shine through even in the midst of the most gruesome battles. Therefore, you will end up rooting for Pizzio and his men when confronted by a bunch of Nazi soldiers among the villages in Calabria, in Southern Italy. You will gasp for air with them in their tremendously hard nightly hike, feeling their desperation and fatigue while they run those last two miles to catch the General before he is moved again. Especially the last chapters are so tense and dense with events to be worth reading the whole novel.
Unfortunately, despite all the strengths of this book, I have to rate it 3 out of 4 stars because of the several editing mistakes I found. I wouldn’t have deducted one star if it wasn’t that in my Kindle version of the book several paragraphs were repeated or sometimes even cut, thus rendering the reading of some chapters incomplete. This annoyed me quite a bit, exactly because the book was so action-packed that even just with a line the entire direction of the narration could be changed.
Nonetheless, I would still highly recommend the book to historical fiction lovers. Of course, we are talking about war fiction, thus the narration is significantly full of profanities and gory descriptions of violence and deaths. Therefore, I would caution too sensitive people to approach this book. All things considered, I have highly enjoyed this engaging story, and I am sure others will do too.
Rescuing General Patton
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