The Monuments Men

February 27, 2014 Biography, History, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction 10

The Monuments MenTitle: The Monuments Men
Author: Robert M. Edsel
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Summary: Great narrative non-fiction. Well written, well researched, filled with fun facts, and pretty good at bringing the main players to life.

I’m constantly intrigued by the many amazing true stories from the WWII period and this is another good one. The Monuments Men were a group of mostly older men from artistic careers who volunteered to go to Europe to protect monuments during the Allied offensive. They also became involved in retrieving and returning the many valuable art works stolen by German forces. As the war turned against them, German commanders were ordered to destroy art rather than let it be recaptured. Meanwhile, Russian troops claimed any art work they found as the spoils of war. Limited support left the Monuments Men trying to accomplish miracles, rescuing art as quickly as possible.

I enjoyed this book from the very beginning. The author starts with notes about sources and an explanation of how dialog in the book was crafted from primary sources. I love knowing exactly where the information I’m reading comes from, so I really appreciate books with a section like this. The author also includes small biographies with pictures of each of the major players in the story. This was incredibly helpful throughout the book. Something I’m sure it’s hard to do is to help the reader connect with the large number of people involved in a project like this. The biographies gave me something to refer back to each time a character was mentioned. That helped me keep track of everyone enough to have a connection with each of the characters. I think that was critical to my enjoyment of this book.

The book also included some personal stories about each of the men (and the one woman) involved. These were perfectly balanced with sections describing the art and sections describing the action. The author also did a great job integrating the story of the Monuments Men into the overall story of the war. There were descriptions of some of the major battles which I’d heard about before, but there were also more new-to-me descriptions of the time leading up to the war, the experience at the homefront, and the ending of the war in Germany. Although the descriptions of battles made me think deeply about whether the Monuments Men’s choice to risk their life for art made sense, the author does clearly articulate the reasons they thought this choice was worthwhile. The author did a great job telling their story in an engaging way and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII or art history.

Amazon|Goodreads

Nonfiction2014

10 Responses to “The Monuments Men”

    • DoingDewey

      There are definitely worse things! I thought it was very well done so if you think you could enjoy it, I’d suggest taking advantage of having a copy 🙂

  1. Geoff W

    I might check this one out, but I’ve been inundated with nonfiction so might (unfortunately and GASP) just see the film.

    • DoingDewey

      Oh no! Not the movie first! Actually, if you’re not planning on reading the book any time soon and would enjoy seeing the movie, I think that makes sense 🙂 I enjoyed the movie so I would recommend it.

    • DoingDewey

      I actually liked the movie too, although my boyfriend hadn’t read the book and found the movie a bit slow. I have at least one friend who hadn’t read the book and enjoyed it anyway though so it probably just depends on the person. Either way, i definitely wouldn’t write the book off because of the movie. Although there is less action in the book than in the film, I think the book was better at being a book than the movie was at being a movie, if that makes sense 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I actually went and saw the movie in theaters because I was so excited about it. I didn’t end up loving it as much as the book, but it was pretty good. I think I’m going to go write my review now 🙂

  2. tanya

    And sold. Actually, because of the movie I already wanted to read this, but you have just confirmed that I will love this book. For some reason I find what they did to be quite inspirational even though they weren’t actually saving any human lives.
    tanya recently posted…Cover Wars: The Changeable Spots of LeopardsMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Wonderful! I really think anyone who likes narrative non-fiction is likely to enjoy this one. And it is inspiring! When they were talking about people dying, it did make me question the value of spending lives to protect art, but I still find it impressive that these men volunteered to put their own lives on the line.
      DoingDewey recently posted…Non-Fiction FridayMy Profile