Review

The Steel Wave: A Novel of World War II

by Jeff Shaara

World War II is a frequently mined swath of history. Writers
and historians have trod back and forth across those fields of
battle, physically and figuratively, churning out a neverending
stream of books on the subject, all with varying perspectives,
opinions and conclusions. Hollywood has added its visual
representation on many aspects of the war. One section that always
draws major attention is the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6,
1944. With the considerable coverage of this event, one would think
that nothing about it could be compelling or inspiring in any
further exploration.

Jeff Shaara proves everyone wrong with his brilliant novel, THE
STEEL WAVE. Continuing on the heels of THE RISING TIDE, this latest
volume in his World War II saga covers January through September of
1944 and is such an engaging piece of work that one must
continually remind himself or herself that the events are true.
Granted, the specific conversations contained within are
conjecture, but Shaara's meticulous research of personal diaries
and letters gives these fictionalized discussions the weight of
authenticity to go hand in hand with the historical facts of the
machinations of the varied war strategies.

THE STEEL WAVE, like its predecessor, is more than just a dry look
at the battles and outcomes of the time. Instead, you are with
General Dwight Eisenhower as he lays the groundwork with the Allied
commanders for Operation Overlord while trying to keep General
Patton on a tight leash. At the same time, you follow Patton and
his frustrations at not being free to engage the enemy as he sees
fit. Sit alongside Field Marshal Erwin Rommel as he struggles to
gain Hitler's attention and build his defenses for the invasion he
knows is coming. Yet, while you get to cozy up with such historical
icons, Shaara also throws in a few fictional everymen by which you
can really connect and become embedded into the action.

Jesse Adams, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, drops behind the
German lines and into the very heart of chaos. Meanwhile, you run
alongside Tom Thorne as he and his infantry division gallantly
struggle to make their way up the beach under the watchful and
deadly eye of the German gunners. These two men, the enlisted
commoners, allow you to be engulfed in the hell that is war, but
Shaara spares the ghastly scenery and the carnage that ensues in
such times because THE STEEL WAVE is not so much about the combat
but about the men within.

Shaara's gift is in making every single character and figure in the
book vivid and alive, and he delivers them to you in such a way
that, as you see the problems of one man's situation unfolding, you
get cut away to see the meticulous planning and problems from the
other side. Together they fold into a dramatic and astounding piece
of history and literature. In particular, Shaara's presentation of
Rommel is exceptional, especially with his own personal struggle to
fulfill his obligations as a soldier and a man of war, and his
sense that Hitler is losing touch and that Germany needs to be
spared. Shaara's work makes Rommel more than just a pastiche or a
textbook cliché of the enemy soldier; the author makes him
animated on the page for you to witness, and makes him human.

If you've ever avoided embracing World War II history for fear of
dry facts and figures, you have nothing to worry about. THE STEEL
WAVE practically sings with the beauty and the simplicity of its
writing. Should you choose to take it up, you will be rapt and find
yourself pushing to finish just one more chapter as the hours tick
by. This novel is guaranteed to keep you engaged, from the opening
pages until its surprisingly touching and solemn conclusion.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on February 23, 2011

The Steel Wave: A Novel of World War II
by Jeff Shaara

  • Publication Date: May 13, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345461428
  • ISBN-13: 9780345461421