“The Monuments Men” by Robert Edsel is the amazingly true story of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives division that was established during World War II. While Hitler and his Nazis were looting their way across Europe, these were the men and women who were in charge of preserving and recovering some of the most valuable works of art known to man. Without the efforts of the MFAA many monuments, cathedrals, paintings, tapestries, and sculptures would either be severely damaged or no longer exist. The Monuments Men were spread thin, but they covered an astounding number of miles and truly believed in their work. George Stout, James Rorimer, Robert Posey, Ronald Balfour, and Walker Hancock were just a few of the men who put their lives on hold to do some of the most important work that nobody seems to really know about.
Since “The Monuments Men” became a movie, this story is a lot more well known. Full disclosure, I have not seen the movie, though I do plan to at some point. The book, at least, was amazing. I checked this book out because I had decided to start reading more “grown up” books and this one immediately caught my eye. From what I understand, the movie brings all of the Monuments Men together to do some kind of grand heist…I’m not really sure. What I do know is that most of these men were the only member of the MFAA division in their section of the war effort and that other soldiers were not always cooperative in the Monument effort.
Something I hadn’t realized before reading this book was how old these men were. Most of them were approaching or already in their 40s! Joining the war effort was not something that was easy for most of them physically. In addition, these men were–for the most part–academics. They knew about art, not war. They were typically not military men turned MFAA officers but instead were museum men turned soldiers.
This book is magnificent. I cannot praise it enough. I learned a lot about WWII that I hadn’t known before and I felt that the author had a really good sense of what each of the Monuments Men must have been thinking during specific experiences. He obviously did extensive research to write this book and it shows. The book flows really well and I liked that we were able to spend time with a variety of the MFAA officers. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone. You don’t have to be interested in World War II or architecture and art to appreciate this book–it’s simply a fascinating read.
Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Heavy. The Monuments Men themselves don’t do much fighting, but it’s a war and there are some graphic descriptions of the internment camp conditions.
Sexual Content: Mild. Talk of mistresses and prostitutes.
Language: Moderate. Soldiers and such.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. Not a focus.