I just this moment finished the book the Monuments Men by Robert Edsel. Initially I was very excited about this book, because I knew it was coming out as a movie. It was released this month (February 7, 2014) . As I write this the movie is number 4 at the box offices and has grossed $43.7 million dollars. As far as how good the movie is, I don’t know…yet. I plan on watching that now as I have finished the book. I always like to read the book first. However, I’m a little weary as its not getting great reviews. On IMDB it has a score of 6.5 out of 10 and on Rotten Tomatoes it has a score of 34%. Not steller by any means.
But this review is about the book, the movie review will come later. First lets look at what others thought of the book. Amazon reviewers seem to like the book, they gave it 4.3 our of 5 so far. Goodreads reviewers were less kind to this historical work, giving it only 3.79 out of 5. For those of you who don’t know the book is about how WWII caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items went missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe’s great art, and they were called the Monuments Men.
I felt the book was slow. Interesting definitely, but not being as cultured as some, I could not picture many of the artwork that was discussed in the book and often found myself wondering if the monuments men time would have been better served rescuing the victims of the Nazi’s. But I also understand that the artwork had a huge cultural significance. I’m torn about all of this really. Should we have helped Europe so much in finding these pieces of art? After all, wasn’t this whole mess their fault? Or was it just the fault of a few misguided souls and the monsters who lead them? This war brings up some very strong feelings in everyone, even those like me who didn’t live through it.
Lets get right down to it. Should you spend your time reading this book? I spent a month reading this 479 page book. I did keep picking it up and looking for time to read it. So, it was a page turner. Not like a thriller at all. But I did keep hoping that something more exciting would happen. It never did. My notes from the book are brief. I highlighted the name Errol Flynn, to remind myself to watch some of his cool old movies. I also found it interesting that the word salt was the basis of the English word Salary. Then there is a huge gap until the end of the book where I took note of the books that some of the people involved the saving the artwork wrote. For your reference they are:
- Le Front de L’Art (The Battle for Art) $656 ( crazy, I know right!)
- Rhymes of a Pfc by Lincoln Kirstein
- Survival: The salvage and protection of art in war by James J Rorimer (out of print)
Makes me sad that they didn’t print many copies of the above books and now they are almost impossible to find. Also, sad that the movie is the only reason these people are no remembered and they were not remembered for their accomplishments during their life time. The only one still alive according to the book is Harry Ettlinger.
Lastly, there have been a lot of other online articles being written about the Monuments Men. Here are just a few:
- The True Story of the Monuments Men – Neatorama
- A grandson commemorates a real-life ‘Monuments Man’ – CNN
- Man’s Growth Toward Civilization – ThisIBelieve Podcast from NPR, this program focuses on George Leslie Stout