Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn, which covered the Allied victories in North Africa, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. This, its sequel, which takes us to the fall of Rome, ought to win another. Vivid and humane, it is deeply researched, using many primary sources based on diaries and letters home. Atkinson was an editor on the Washington Post, so understandably the slant is on American achievements, personalities, and tragedies (the book is full of grim as well as heroic stories), but the British side is by no means ignored, and this includes Canadians, New Zealanders, Indians and Poles in the Eighth Army. Atkinson excels also in character portraits of the leaders, from Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Churchill to Patton, Montgomery, Alexander and Mark Clark, hate-figure for most British historians writing about that war.
Gela, in south Sicily, where the American Fifth Army (commanded by Patton) landed, was the first town or village to be decimated, as the Allies moved inexorably north. In spite of recent major archaeological discoveries, the place to this day still appears not to have recovered. Bad weather caused confusion