There Stood a Soldier
Contributor: Thomas Houlihan
Review Date: 11 Nov 2010
Those who study military history at all, much less World War II specifically are at least familiar with the events surrounding the battle for the city of Stalingrad. The encirclement of 6th Army, and the subsequent surrender of its remnants are well known. For the aficionado of the battle, there are several histories and memoirs available. What Dr. Buttar has done with this book, though, is to put a very human face on things that drives home the horror and loss of war.
One of the things that most impressed me about this story was the panoply of characters that the author handled quite expertly. Itís hard enough to invent realistic characters each with their own personalities, quirks, and foibles. That Dr. Buttar was able to do this on both sides of the front, with so many people makes him deserving of very high marks.
Prit has managed to present several sides of war in his character usage. On the German side, it is quite possible to feel the privation and suffering endured by the men of 6th Army. He has brought together differing perspectives on the battle by introducing men from all levels of the division. Not only does this help the reader to understand more about the men involved, but it also helps us to follow the course of the overall battle.
On the Russian side, he has managed to present to the reader many facets of the Red Army. From the professional soldier, to the single-minded Commissar, to the most raw recruit, we meet a group of men who put a real face on what many consider the faceless mass of khaki moving across the steppe. Using the same cast of characters, Dr. Buttar is also able to trace the learning curve, as the Red Army learns to deal with the Fascist invaders.
It is the use of the homefront that I think really brings the human cost to the fore. Through well crafted letters written both in Germany and Russia, the reader is able to get a better picture of the suffering involved in war. One is reminded that it is not just the soldier that suffers in war.
Dr. Buttar has managed to make his story ring authentic by use of legitimate mannerisms and speech patterns used by both sides during the war. He has made good use of knowledgeable friends and contacts in Europe and the former Soviet Union to work a high degree of authenticity into this work. There were several times when I had to remind myself that I was reading a fictional novel, not a memoir.
I will admit to disappointment in two points. The first was that I was able to get through the book as quickly as I did. The other, I canít disclose here, as it would impact on your enjoyment of the book.
I would strongly encourage anyone with even mild interest in the subject matter to read this book. It will give you a new perspective on this battle, the men who fought on both sides, and the people who waited for them at home.
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Chiang Kaishek, 31 Jul 1937