HELL RIDERS: The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade
Even for the British, knowledge of the Charge of the Light Brigade begins and ends with Tennyson's poem—and it's debatable how many Americans could even tell you which war the battle took place in. Brighton, a curator at the British museum devoted to the regiment that led the charge, deftly explains the circumstances leading to the 1854–1856 Crimean War and the Light Brigade's misbegotten confrontation with Russian artillery at Balaklava, outlining the difficulties the soldiers faced in the weeks leading up to the fateful battle. A minute-by-minute account dealing with the battle itself builds tension through effective crosscutting of passages from eyewitness accounts by several survivors along with the author's own thoughtful analysis. Later sections address nagging controversies, such as whether the brigade's commander abandoned his troops mid-fight, while Brighton does his best to pin down just how many soldiers rode into the valley of death and concludes that, despite the heavy losses, the brigade did not lose at Balaklava. His story is an example to all popular historians of how to combine a gripping yarn with deep insight into the social and cultural forces driving the action. Agent, Carl Brandt. (Nov. 2)
Forecast: Military history buffs may recognize the 150th anniversary of the Charge on October 25, but acceptance among a broader American audience seems unlikely.