Book Review: Greatest Generation

The Greatest GenerationThe Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rating this, a collection of short narratives, almost bios, of people in WWII, is difficult because of one thing: its writer.

While I found some of the information about their life stories and experiences interesting, all was told by, and very much in the voice of, Tom Brokaw.

The tone throughout was heavy, leaden with the preachy tone of an old man witnessing kids ringing doorbells and running away on the night before Halloween. He repeated how the generation of his focus was the exceptional in its discretion and moral fiber – so much so that it overtook the stories completely.

The stories were not well written: point of view would slide into Brokaw’s own experiences, right in the middle of someone else’s story; the writing was surprisingly stiff and choppy. And those constant references to how great this generation was (and, implicitly how great all others were not) grew tiresome. Fast.

My own parents were part of the “greatest generation.” My dad was in the Army Air Corps and my mother was training the in the Army Nurse Cadet Corp when they met. And they were great. And they weren’t.

The book would have been greatly improved had the people whose lives were featured told the stories themselves. In their words. Brokaw’s writing would have been difficult to take even as a long introduction but as a constant narrative, it was disruptive, conventional and irritating.

Also annoying were the numerous features of celebrities. I wanted to read about people like my parents, aunts and uncles, not ex-presidents and other luminaries whose stories have been often re-told and are readily available. How much better Mr. Brokaw’s book would have been had he just offered up stories of people who had not had the chance to tell them.

And while I understand the urge to feature two or three of the people he knew from his hometown, there was too much of that. By the end I had the feeling that instead of going outside of his own experience to look for the unsung people of WWII, from all walks and all places, he had maintained a narrow focus on those he’d either known from his hometown or met during his time in journalism.

Give me stories of WWII from people who never met Tom Brokaw before, please.

I didn’t finish the book. I closed it upon reaching the celebrity section and placed it upon the donation box.

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1 thought on “Book Review: Greatest Generation”

  1. My father was in the 11th Airborne Division during WWII. I’ve read both of Brokaw’s books and in fact have over 103 books related to the war. I understand what you’re saying and thought I might suggest “Combat WWII Pacific” (750 pages) This is a reliable company with reasonable rates – as you can see. I think you’d find these stories more to what you’re looking for.

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