Book review: The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a solid read I picked up last month thanks to ShopSavvy. The book walks us through a very detailed history of the Allied effort in the later half of the Second World War to preserve, protect and retrieve arts of work stolen by the invading Nazis in Occupied Western Europe.

Its a small window into a part of the war, of which I have only had glimpses before. But it makes for some fascinating reading. Its not really a book for beginner World War 2 students, I think, since it makes for some slow and possibly fragmented reading. A collection of connected essays tied together by original letters from the Allied officers, its strength lies in its narrative which tracks the pieces of art and the efforts of the officers rather than the bigger, strategic picture of the Second World War. A lot of good books tend to dive into the more glamorous side-stories at the expense of the main theme of the essay.

It was a little heavy going at first as I wrapped my mind around the number of people involved and the sudden shifts (sometimes over time) that kept throwing me off - till I realized the main theme was the tracking of the actual artifacts NOT the people. That is definitely an aspect of the war which has been missing for some time. The focus of any popular war book has lain in the narrative of tactical and strategic themes, supplemented by  personal narratives be it The Longest Day or Is Paris Burning? Where this book differs in is the focus is on pieces of art, which capture your imagination and have you rooting for their safety and recovery.

Definitely worth a read. Plus for some reason the hard cover is really, really cheap on Amazon.

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