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Summary

May 1945. Hitler is dead, and the Third Reich is little more than smoking rubble. No GI wants to be the last man killed in action against the Nazis. But for cigar-chewing, rough-talking, hard-drinking, hard-charging Captain Jack Lee and his men, there is one more mission: rescue 14 prominent French prisoners held in an SS-guarded castle high in the Austrian Alps. It's a dangerous mission, but Lee has help from a decorated German Wehrmacht officer and his men, who voluntarily join the fight.

Based on personal memoirs, author interviews, and official American, German, and French histories, The Last Battle is the nearly unbelievable story of the most improbable battle of World War II - a tale of unlikely allies, bravery, cowardice, and desperate combat between implacable enemies.

©2013 Stephen Harding (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Joel Langenfeld
  • 28-10-13

Write the book, THEN the screenplay.

This book as a screenplay, which may have been at the back of the author's mind. There are a couple of themes you could work with - the continuum of loyalism, especially after the death of Hitler is one, how to best arrange for one's personal destiny if you know you're going to be on the losing side is another.

Ironically, the author spends much more time fleshing out the portrayal of the detainees and various German/Austrian notables. It could be he couldn't resist the thought of forcing the swashbuckling tank commander into a yankee stereotype, best introduced in a headlong rush of action.

There are the makings of a much better narrative than that which was told. Ultimately disappointing. A popular history written by someone hoping the screenplay gets picked up.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Edward Thomas
  • 26-03-18

if it's not a movie, it should be.

a little bit of a hard start but it was well-read and a very good story. If it's not a movie yet it should be I'd go see it.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • 5012690528
  • 13-03-18

Great story - weird performance.

The work by Harding is top notch--a thoroughly researched, well-written story. However, I have never heard an audiobook where the narrator takes on a foreign accent. He feigned a French accent (while speaking English, mind you) when reading direct quotes from French characters, a German accent for German characters, etc. That was an odd stylistic choice.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Reggie
  • 23-09-17

A Maddening Book

What disappointed you about The Last Battle?

This is not a bad book. At times it does feel like Harding's pay was based on how many stock, trite war phrases he could work into the narrative, but stale verbiage aside it's not a poorly written book. My displeasure is with the choice he made to introduce all the players in this drama, through evidently well-researched biographical sketches, prior to the battle referenced in the title. We don't get a whiff of the battle until nearly the end of the book. Again, that choice does not make this a bad book, but it did make me really dislike it. It is a heavily researched book, but the pedantic details show up at odd times, giving this strange and almost surreal, human drama the feel of an old-school, names-and-dates antiquarian history. I wish he had gone the other way, allowing himself to speculate more on the human drama; the prison lives of these political foes locked together as VIP POWS. But Harding's discipline is firm, and we get the facts as they have been recorded. The actual battle, which takes place in the final 1/5 of the book feels largely anticlimactic. Acts of bravery and betrayal accompany scenes of comedy and tragedy, but they are fleeting and fail to land fully.I can't recommend this book, but if you're okay listening to a story structured like I've described, you may love it.

Would you ever listen to anything by Stephen Harding again?

I would give it a shot, sure.

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • patrick
  • 28-01-17

An interesting piece of WW2 history

Americans and German soldiers banding together to fight the vaunted and beleaguered SS divisions at the close of WW2. A story that every WW2 history buff must know.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-01-17

Well written and researched; narration suffers

An interesting story, with heavy historical detail that can seem a bit TOO detailed if you expect it to read like a novel. The narrator's pronunciation of some of the German names, particularly Theodor Eicke, is bad enough to be annoying.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Joseph
  • 31-10-16

Long on details, short on story

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I would have spent less time retelling the entire life stories of every single prisoner. So much detail is provided, it almost felt like the author was padding the book's length. The actual battle, and the events surrounding it, were well told. It just took hours and hours to get to it.

Would you be willing to try another book from Stephen Harding? Why or why not?

Yes, I would. He's a competent storyteller, and maybe this book just suffered from a lack of editing.

Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

Definitely Captain Jack Lee, the American tank commander who led the defense of the castle.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes, I would. It's a good story, and one that few know about. A film version would refocus the book away from historical minutia, and towards the actual events.

Any additional comments?

There are so many prisoners, and the book spends so long on each one, I had trouble keeping track of who was who. Making a few quick notes on each one might help.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 24-06-16

pronunciations were amazing and great research

good book what the title above said..I .would definitely recoment to ppl who have already read a lot about ww2 but r looking for a story that hasn't already been told a 100 times

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  • bobby shovel
  • 09-06-15

Great!

A most enjoyable book. I Loved how this story came together, how it had to. The afterword I was most grateful for. Thank You.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Mildred B. Gowen
  • 24-05-15

Title is very misleading

The time of the book is very misleading in the sense that 95% of the book had nothing to do with the battle itself but with the politics between the French at the castle. The battle itself was very interesting but because the title I expected to hear more of the tactics and the collaboration between the Germans and the Americans and fighting this last battle. If you want a book about politics more than actually about war and a battle this would be looking to buy if you're looking for a book that has to do with an actual fight and how the battle developed this is not what you're looking for

1 of 3 people found this review helpful