Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

The Monuments Men:  Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter - 512 pages (total for numbered and numeral pages)

With the movie coming out in just a few weeks, I wanted to read the book for Monuments Men.  The book follows the work of the original monument men to protect Europe's cultural treasures.  Each was hand picked for his duty because of previous work within the fields of art, art  history, and architecture.  As part of their duties, they examined damaged historic buildings and traced Nazi-looted treasures from within said buildings and from personal collections.  As the author admits, there is too much to the story to cover in one book as originally planned, so this title focuses on Western Europe.  A second, more recent, book Saving Italy traces the same work in Southern Europe (I hope to read this one eventually).  While each monument men is traced, special attention is paid to George Stout (whom became the leader) and James Rorimer (whom worked closely with the French resisters Rose Valland and Jacques Jaujard, who worked within the Louvre and Jue de Paume).

Overall, I was thrilled with the book.  All historical elements were well traced, as evidenced by the end notes.  The writing read like a well-paced novel by incorporating dialogue from interviews and adding elements of suspense while on the hunt for missing artwork.  Relevant photographs and maps were included to help visualize the destruction of cultural landmarks, vastness of the underground art storage areas, and the paths the monuments men took to locate the missing items.

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