Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Thunder in May

About a year ago I wrote a brief review on   Seelowe Nord: The Germans Are Coming and said how much I enjoyed it. Well I was browsing one lunchtime at work and, lo and behold, Andy Johnson has written another WWII novel - this time a "prequel" - Thunder In May - which features many of the same characters during the fall of France in May 1940.

For anyone who read  Seelowe Nord: The Germans Are Coming the style of Thunder in May is very similar - the action is described from the point of view of both British and German soldiers (in a similar manner to Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising). Mr Johnson doesn't waste much time getting his characters into combat - and they essentially spend the rest of the book under fire. The action is well described - and this time is based upon the real events - however I think Mr Johnson's desire to tell the whole story of what is a fascinating campaign has led him to spread himself a little thin.

The main infantryman featuring in the story is Sergeant Davey Jackson of the Coldstream Guards, and I can't help feeling that if the book had concentrated more on his experiences (and of the Coldstreams generally) and those of the men and units immediately affecting him, then the book would have been more effective. By concentrating on a unit which performed very well and retained its cohesion until evacuated from Dunkirk I rather think Mr Johnson missed out on expressing the confusion created by the German Panzers rapid thrusts into Northern France. The ignorance of the situation and confusion endemic during the campaign are referred to by Mr Johnson but you don't really feel it. 

But Mr Johnson's metier is describing small unit combat and men under fire, and this book is pretty much full of this. Much of the combat featured in Thunder In May is taken from historical actions and matches my reading of Dunkirk: Fight To The Last Man - Mr Johnson's personal army experience shines through when describing infantry actions and, for all my quibbles about the story being spread a little thinly, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.