Monday, June 8, 2020

Book Review: To Wake The Giant

Book R&R: "To Wake The Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor" by Jeff Shaara

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Jeff Shaara fan. I have read every book he has written, as soon as they become available. When I heard that he was going to revisit World War II and specifically Pearl Harbor, it went straight to the top of the reading pile. Besides, with the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII upon us, the subject is very appropriate.

"To Wake the Giant" begins approximately one year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the usual Jeff Shaara formula, he tells the story of the event by following major historical characters who played a role in decision making and examples of "regular people" who were greatly affected by the event. In the case of "Wake the Giant," Shaara provides the perspective of the United States' chief negotiator with Japan, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, and a new enlistee to the U.S. Navy named Tommy Biggs, who gets assigned to the USS Arizona.

Of course, we hear the voices of other characters who are part of the multitude that made or were affected by this pivotal event in World history. Secretary of State Hull, of course, meets with President Roosevelt and Secretary of War Stimson among others that include Japanese Ambassador Nomura. These meetings let the reader know what the American government knew leading up to the war. Dialog between Yamamoto, his staff and other admirals, show us the planning for the attack. And in Hawaii, we see the preparations for war through the viewpoint of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and his staff. Finally, Tommy Biggs and his shipmates show us what life was like for a battleship sailor in the weeks before the war and the horrific battle on December 7, 1941.

"To Wake the Giant" is a page-turner. I was never bored or distracted. Like all Shaara novels, the book is well researched and very readable. To me, this author writes the epitome of factual historical fiction, which as I've said many times is a great way to learn details of an event. And if you're not careful, you might even become a fan of history. So put this book on your summer reading list.

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