Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966.
Reason read: to finished the series started in honor of D-Day. To be fair, this wasn’t part of a “series” but it made sense to read next since historically, the last battle came after the events in A Bridge Too Far.
I’ve said this before, but one of the best things about reading a Cornelius Ryan book is that it is never ever boring. His books read like a movie (as been said before by many reviewers), complete with characters you root for and villains you love to hate. The very first people you meet in The Last Battle are Richard Poganowska, a 39 year old milk man and Carl Johann Wiberg, “a man more German than Germany” who happens to be an Allied spy. Ryan introduces you to the lesser known elements of war – passionate people who try to save entire orchestras and animals from a war demolished zoo. As an aside, it was heartbreaking to meet Schwartz and his beloved Abu Markub. I’m glad Ryan circled back to their story at the end.
And speaking of the end, this truly is a depiction of the last battles fought in World War II. Ryan circles all the players, leaving no one out: the defenders, the attackers and of course, the civilians. The race to conquer Berlin and the subsequent divvying up of Germany was fascinating.
As an aside, someone went through The Last Battle and sadly, marked it up with a RED pen. How annoying.
Quote that stopped me, “How do you tell sixty nuns and lay sisters that they are in danger of being raped?” (p 26). That was the reality of German Berliners if the Russians took over their city.
Book trivia: The Last Battle is chock full of interesting photographs, including one of the author with one of his subjects.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter (for obvious reasons) called “World War II Nonfiction” (p 254).