Review: The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

 

Here’s the description from Goodreads:
At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: “degenerate” works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.
So it should come as no surprise that I adore anything WWII related.  I’ve wanted to read this book since I watched the documentary “The Rape of Europa” on Netflix.  I highly recommend watching it by the way, if you’re at all interested in the art stolen during the war and the efforts still being made to get things back to families.  So I was so excited when we picked this as our next book club read!

Usually I wait to post a review until after we discuss at book club, so that I can write a bit about what we all thought.  But I read this a while ago and book club isn’t until later this week, so I decided to just get this written and posted now.

I LOVED it!  I know I have a bad habit of saying that with all caps in my review.  But it’s true!  I really loved it.  It is full of so much information.  One thing I do want to say though is that there’s a lot of quick references to battles and other things going on during the war.  If you are not down on your WWII history, you might get confused and not really know the timeline as well.  So if you don’t know a lot about the war, maybe keep Google open or read up on wikipedia or something.

The men who became the Monuments Men were not your typical soldiers.  Sure, they all signed up for for the army or the navy.  But most of them were scholars back home.  They worked in studios or in museums.  But then they risked their lives (and some lost their lives), to protect artwork and cultures and to get everything back to wherever it was stolen from.  It was so sad to read about things like precious illuminated manuscripts that were destroyed during bombings.  We will never get those back.

Also, can you believe that the Nazis stored so much artwork-paintings by people like Rembrandt!-in wet mines?!  A lot of paintings especially had to be restored because they had sustained some water damage.

The saddest part is how much the Nazis took from Jewish families.  Some families were able to flee before they were sent to camps, and the Nazis took everything from their homes, but we know that so many were not lucky enough to get away.  And there were just trains full of these peoples possessions.

It’s sickening to think about how so much cultural heritage, so many monuments, beautiful old buildings, paintings, books, etc. were lost during the war.  It’s humbling to think of how much was able to be saved.  It makes you appreciate everything more.  It makes me want to go back to France, to La Rochelle, and really appreciate how untouched the old port and city center were.  Because so many towns and cities lost their historical buildings and downtowns.  And of course they lost so many people.

I highly recommend this book if you love WWII history and are interested in art preservation.  It is nonfiction, but it reads more like fiction because it’s so fast paced.

Have you read this book?  I’m not sure I want to see the movie.  My boyfriend saw it and came home and point blank told me I wouldn’t like it.

Title: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Author: Robert M. Edsel
Date of Publication: 2010
Number of Pages: 512
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Personal copy

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About Kelly

Hi! My name’s Kelly. I’m a twenty-something gal from Buffalo, NY. Mom to a little dog named Peabody and a slightly evil cat named Archie. Engaged to the best dude ever. I love books and craft beer! I also love all things France and francophone and have a degree in French Language and Literature from Buffalo State College. My blog used to be called Kelly’s France Blog, but I finally decided it needed a change because I wasn’t posting about French things nearly as often as I used to! You can still see all my imported posts on A Book and a Beer, or you can visit my original blog at http://kellysfranceblog.blogspot.com.
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2 Responses to Review: The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

  1. We watched the movie about a week ago and I really liked it. I haven't read the book, though, so I don't have anything to compare it to.

  2. Kelly says:

    I still want to see it, I just have to tell myself to not expect a documentary. Because it's obviously not! I'm bad at that though. I love nonfic history books so when I see one turned into a movie I get my hopes up!

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