We drank. We ate. We glowed.


ON the day Paris was liberated from Nazi occupation, two trucks screeched to a halt in front of the Ritz. Out jumped several dozen French Resistance fighters, armed to the teeth and led by a burly American with a large mustache. The French “irregulars” were so in awe of the man they referred to as “le grand capitaine” that they had taken to copying what the photographer Robert Capa called his “sailor bear walk” and machine-gun diction, “spitting short sentences from the corners of their mouths.” The leader swaggered up to the hotel bar and placed his order: “How about 73 dry martinis?” Ernest Hemingway went on to liberate the Ritz of a great deal of alcohol. “We drank. We ate. We glowed,” recalled one of his men. That cameo is just one of many unforgettable scenes in the final installment of Rick Atkinson’s epic trilogy about America’s war in Europe, a book that stitches a multitude of such small but telling moments into a tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity. Atkinson is a master of what might be called “pointillism history,” assembling the small dots of pure color into a vivid, tumbling narrative.

more from Ben Macintyre at the NY Times here.