four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
By: 
Max Hastings
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Portraits from the Battlefield

A-WarriorsAudie Murphy, the most highly decorated American soldier in World War II and subsequent Hollywood icon, once stated: "I am not brave. I simply perform and think later." Baron Marbot was injured no fewer than 13 times riding with Napoleon’s cavalry, yet each time he was ripe to rejoin the battle. Joshua Chamberlain, a professor of rhetoric, took a leave from his career to join the Union forces, preferring a lieutenant-colonelcy to an officer’s commission; his troops went on to play a crucial role in the battle of Gettysburg. These soldiers and 12 of their brothers-in-arms make up this collection of tales that examines the meaning of old-fashioned bravery and the costs of battle over the past 200 years.
Knopf. 354 Pages. $27.50. ISBN: 1400044413

Sunday Herald (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Hastings knows his way round the martial ethos and by dint of hard-earned experience and a combative instinct he has a pretty good idea about what makes soldiers tick." Trevor Royle

Sunday Times (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Hastings combines his consummate skill as a writer with passages of descriptive brilliance to provide a book for the ordinary citizen. His warriors are a mixed bag of unlikely combat survivors, their deeds graphically portrayed and their character flaws vividly described." Peter de la Billiere

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"He acts as a sort of Plutarch to the modern warrior. His ‘lives’ are splendidly done, full of compelling narrative and telling detail." Robert Messenger

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The end result is surprisingly old-fashioned—not, as Hastings says, because Warriors is about ‘people, not platforms,’ but because the breezy, insightful recitation of extraordinary acts eventually begins to read a little like ‘Deeds That Thrilled the Empire.’ Luckily Hastings’ asperity and cynicism ground us in the right century." Dominick Donald

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The strength of Warriors does not lie in these throat-clearing observations but in its rip-roaring anecdotes. Hastings is an expert literary craftsman who makes the most out of stories that, however often repeated, are never less than gripping." Max Boot

Critical Summary

English historian and journalist Max Hastings knows something of courage from his many years covering wars for the BBC. He is also accustomed to literary success: his books have been consistent award winners in the UK (where he was knighted in 2002), and his previous book, Armageddon ( 4 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2005), was an acclaimed study of the final year of World War II. In Warriors his stated aim is to "amuse as much as inform," and reviewers report that he’s up to the task. Though Warriors shouldn’t be judged against his more scholarly work, reviewers still find plenty of thematic resonance in his balanced portraits of these 15 men-of-arms.