It is easy to be annoyed at this flawed attempt at a comprehensive account of the Six-Day war. But the book does carry the reader along and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with that landmark event and, also, as a reminder for those who have forgotten.
The absence of a preface in which Bowen, a BBC journalist, should have spelled out what he was attempting to achieve and how he intended to go about it is an immediate warning of a lack of weightiness. Another sign is the absence of maps, except for two unhelpful regional maps.
To his credit, Bowen appears to have read dozens of the books written on the war, including the most recent, as well as relevant government archives, particularly of the United States and United Kingdom. He has also interviewed military and civilian personnel on both sides although he does not indicate how many. But his account remains that of a journalist making notes from the sidelines, not of a researcher who has immersed himself in the heart of the matter, who can make informed assessments, and has original insights to offer. He misses central elements in the story, such as the fascinating objections in the Israeli cabinet to the capture of Jerusalem's Old City—and the Western Wall—by ministers from the National Religious Party, who maintained that it was too politically and ideologically hot to handle; this from a party that would soon after spearhead Israeli settlement efforts.
The battle descriptions are incomprehensible, and Bowen, in searching for the illuminating detail or pregnant quote, more often ends up with banality and schmaltz. Nevertheless, there are interesting glimpses of the players, particularly in the Egyptian camp. Bowen's description of how Egypt and the Arab world worked their way up with ever expanding rhetoric into war fever despite their near-total lack of preparation remains, even four decades later, an astonishment.