There seems to be, in the small (or topically constrained) books about big subjects like the World Wars, an argument for an alternate definition of the idiom “the devil is in the details.” While the sweeping narratives of troop movements, munitions advantages, and missteps in statecraft seem to fade quickly from memory, the awfulness of the details from smaller stories sear, seemingly permanently. I’m thinking, in particular, of W.G. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction, his essay collection on the Allied bombing of German cities in the Second World War and the mothers fleeing the ruination who carry with them, in their luggage, the bodies of their dead children. Or Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August that recounts the ravages of the Belgian countryside wrought by the Germans on the march during the First World War.
A new entry to this list is Charles Kaiser’s The Cost of Courage.
© 2014 Bryce T Bauer