- Niklas Zetterling & Anders Frankson
- ARRSE Rating
- 0.5 Mushroom Heads
“The Drive on Moscow 1941” by Niklas Zetterling and Anders Frankson covers the third phase of BARBAROSSA, Operation TAIFUN - the German attempt to capture Moscow, and the Soviet response. Produced in normal paperback format with 280 pages there are copious maps and photos interspersed with the text. The book draws on numerous records including personal diaries and letters from both sides in an attempt to detail the battle from the soldiers’ viewpoint as well as the Generals’ perspective.
To set the scene, the book commences at the start line of TAIFUN, 180 miles from Moscow with a lengthy and almost incomprehensible listing of formations and command organisations, detailing the initial success of the Germans’ spearheads encircling the defenders, cutting the Soviet defences to pieces until bogged down by the weather almost at the outskirts of Moscow. The corresponding build-up and later counter attacks of the Soviets are also covered.
This is without doubt the worst book I’ve reviewed on ARRSE; not because of the content (although what I could decipher was pretty poor fare); but due to the presentation, which makes the damn thing virtually unreadable – and I’ve been trying to finish it for the last several weeks. The font of the main body of text appears to have been selected to prevent the reader from – well, reading. The ridiculously small and microscopically detailed maps have the effect of overloading the eye with information; they’re so cramped and incomprehensible that I fail to see why they were included. Photos appear to have been randomly shuffled into the manuscript, and have little bearing on what’s written.
Little vignettes of one-page essays are sprinkled among the pages in a slightly different but still virtually illegible font, with titles such as “Maps are Weapons” or “Stalin’s Hub of Power”, with adjacent (and once again often unrelated) photos. From the look of it this would be more suited to a coffee table-style large hardback publication – which almost makes sense considering the poor presentation of the rest of the book.
As for the content, on managing to fight my way through to actually reading the book, I found I really shouldn’t have bothered. The interminable lists of village / town / city names (allied with the gobbledygook maps) give no sense of the geography of the battle or their importance. Brief sketches of Generals and junior officers linked to excerpts from diaries or letters are uninformative and give no depth to the subjects, and lists of weapons and equipment are inserted at various intervals with little to no reference to their deployment, capability or effect on the enemy. the flow of the book is non-existent, it feels like it's been written by committee; to top it off I found the conclusions of the authors somewhat suspect, with no convincing explanation of how they are arrived at. Apparently Zetterling is a researcher at the Swedish Defence College; if this is a sample of their Military thinking, I think I may have found the reason for the Swedes' longstanding neutrality.
In short, this book is a lemon, and 0.5 mushrooms is being generous. Avoid at all costs!