Mark Zuehlke, one of the best-known chroniclers of Canadian military history, has found a new vehicle to tell the tale of Canada’s first major Second World War victory. But in the process he has been forced to jettison his signature exhaustive style.
Ortona Street Fight is the first non-fiction title in the Rapid Reads series for low-literacy adults and reluctant readers. The book is a battle narrative of the week-long December 1943 fight between Canadian soldiers and elite German paratroopers for the town of Ortona on Italy’s Adriatic Coast. The clash was a ghastly, close-quarters struggle that left thousands dead and the town in ruins, though in Canadian hands.
True to the series’ intent, the book is light and fast-paced. Despite some purple prose that would make dour history readers squirm, the volume is worth recommending within the context of the Rapid Reads series. Readers new to military history will be genuinely moved by the courage and endurance of the soldiers and will learn about an important chapter in our national heritage.
In a broader context, however, the book lacks historical bona fides such as maps, endnotes, and a bibliography. This volume necessarily lacks Zuehlke’s signature thoroughness and exquisite detail. Still, given its intended audience, Ortona Street Fight provides a readable, unintimidating introduction to the material.