Jim's Reviews > The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
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's review
Feb 27, 2012

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Read from February 27 to March 19, 2012

This was a frustrating book to read. The historical content was fascinating - art treasures taken by Nazis from churches and museums in occupied territory for "protection" or, worse, such treasures "acquired" from Jews who were arrested or forced to flee from the front lines of the holocaust. The subject of the book was the hunt for those treasures and their safe return to their rightful owners, if possible, or at least their country of origin. With that story to tell, The Monuments Men should have been better than it was.

Unfortunately, Robert M. Edsel seemed to want to write a novel on this subject rather than a historical account. We are forewarned in his "Author's Note" that he has "taken the liberty of creating dialogue for continuity." Too much liberty seems to have been taken.

Often, instead of telling us what happened - what was found, where, by whom - what were the clues that led to the discovery - what was done upon discovery, etc. - Edsel painted portraits of the characters in his historical fiction. He described what these individuals saw, felt, and thought, in detail that only a fiction writer could know. He also transcribed conversations throughout, which would have been impossible to record without the aid of a courtroom stenographer. "For continuity," I suppose.

But all that "liberty" and all that "continuity" was distracting. And it took up so much space that far too few facts about what happened were contained within 426 pages of principal text.

I did like the book though. Because the nuggets of information buried within were so fascinating . . . from Adolf Hitler's grand plans to rebuild his hometown of Linz, Austria, as a cultural center; to the steps taken by French citizens to delay the transit of looted art and treasure to Germany or to record, at least, where it all went - from the travels of Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna to Jan Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece to a Rembrandt self portrait to the discoveries of enormous depositories of art and treasure stored in castles and mines throughout Germany during the war.

There is interesting, awesome stuff here but I was left wanting more. More substance, less story.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Rdonn Read "Rape of Europa". Very scholarly and no frills, but it's a fascinating story. I too disliked this writing style.

message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Thanks. I'll look for it!

message 3: by Charlie (new)

Charlie Weiss Watched the movie? It's not bad...

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