Holland is a prolific chronicler of war; his trademark style is to examine it through the experiences of single fighting units ... Holland objects to the way the last year of the war has too often been presented as a seamless narrative of success, an inexorable advance from Normandy to Berlin. He concentrates instead on the forgotten little battles that crowded every day ... The power of Holland’s book lies in the painful intimacy he creates. The reader gets to know these men as if they exist in the present ... Brothers in Arms is painful to read, but impossible to put down. Seldom is war so vividly described. This book is an assault on the senses ... Brothers in Arms is war as it should be described — ordinary men facing extraordinary horror ... Caught up in the drama of battle, we sometimes forget the good men who died. Holland, to his credit, forces us to remember.
Mr. Holland ably sets up his main characters: men he had the good fortune to interview, or those who left detailed diaries, letters and reminiscences behind ... Christopherson, Skinner, and a handful of tankers form a cadre of characters around whom the story revolves. Others join the regiment and die without leaving any emotional ripples. Tears are briefly shed, but the story, like the regiment, pushes on without looking back ... The book’s widened scope at times restricts its depth. This is what author and reader sign up for when tackling a midsize unit immersed in complex operations. On the other hand, as a unit history, Brothers in Arms tells a superb story of World War II’s destruction with a breadth that small-unit narratives cannot match.
James Holland’s greatest strength as a military historian is that he brings humanity to his work — a rare trait in a field of research that can sometimes feel dominated by those obsessed with numbers. Where others recite regiment numbers and calibre sizes, Holland is interested in the men behind the faceless facts ... In Brothers in Arms he invites his readers to follow the Sherwood Rangers, a British tank regiment, on their way from the Normandy beaches into Germany as World War Two came to its bloody conclusion. Drawing on a wide range of sources, he paints a remarkably vivid picture of what his subjects endured and achieved in the closing stages of the conflict ... Brothers in Arms does more than just tell the story of the Sherwood Rangers. Having interviewed veterans, spoken to their families, read their letters, seen their photographs and walked in their paths, Holland has delved into their world and brought their characters to life. Behind the 148 deaths were 148 lives with families, relationships, upheaval and joy. The book is a powerful and moving reminder that there is tragedy in statistics.