At the beginning of the book, Robert M. Edsel describes the Monuments Men:
The Monuments Men were a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, or MFAA. Most of the early volunteers had expertise as museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. Their job description was simple: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat.Finally I am reviewing this book two months after I finished reading it. I put it off because I had such mixed feeling about the book. I am very interested in World War II history in general and the looting of art in particular. I was glad to see this book get such wide attention so that more people would know about the Monuments Men. My husband introduced me to this subject; he was the one who bought the book, then gave it to me when he finished it. But I really had not understood the magnitude of the loss of art during World War II (both from personal collections and from museums and churches) until I saw the documentary The Rape of Europa.
... Of the initial sixty or so that served in the battlefields of North Africa and Europe through May 1945, the primary period covered by our story, most were middle- aged, with an average age of forty. The oldest was sixty- six, an “old and indestructible” World War I veteran; only five were still in their twenties. Most had established families and accomplished careers. But they had all chosen to join the war effort in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, and to a man they were willing to fight and die for what they believed. I am proud to introduce them to you and to tell, as best I can, their remarkable stories.
However, I did not find it a compelling read. It took me many months to finish it. Part of that is just because nonfiction in general is not an easy read for me. Many reviewers describe the writing style as plodding and tedious. Others loved the book. I suspect the level of enjoyment in reading this book may be somewhat dependent on knowledge and interest in the topic. Some reviews criticized the book because the author invented dialogue. I actually don't remember that so much.
I plan to read The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas, and then view the documentary again. Robert M. Edsel was a co-producer of the documentary.
We have watched the movie based on this book twice and I will be doing a post on that soon.
At the Smithsonian website.
Katie at Doing Dewey liked this book more than I did. As did Bill at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan.
Publisher: Center Street, 2009
Length: 426 pages
Genre: History, non-fiction
Source: Received from my husband.