I learned of this book when I saw a “making of…” thing for the movie before a different movie. As a history lover with a passionate interest in all things Europe and World War II especially, I knew I couldn’t let the book pass by. But it could have passed me by. Maybe I would have felt differently if I didn’t buy it when the movie came out, I even got the movie tie-in edition, and the press was saturated with the story. I made the mistake of watching an hour long special on National Geographic while I was reading the book. I say it was a mistake because it was the book in an hour.
And the book could have been that much shorter.
It’s an essential part of history, there’s no doubt about that. The book just could have been written better. There were too many “main characters”, for lack of a better word. It was clear that Edsel found George Stout and James Rorimer to be the most interesting characters. It was also clear that he felt as though he had to have a cast of supporting characters. Walker Hancock and Robert Posey and all the others were hugely important figures in the Monuments Men. They didn’t seem quite so important to Edsel. Every time anyone who wasn’t Stout or Rorimer was mentioned, Edsel brought them into them into the picture. I understand that they were in the picture. I just feel as it could have been written different. Less repetitive and choppy, I suppose would be the best way to put it.
The story could have followed Stout or Rorimer, even both of them, and still hit on all the most important things because they were there. Hancock and company would have had their time in the spotlight too. As it was, I found myself tired of hearing that George Stout was dapper and a stickler for details. I heard that in every chapter.
In the introduction to the book, Edsel admits that he meant to cover all of Europe but that there was just too much information so he planned to write a separate book on Italy and the Monuments Men there. Perhaps it would be best as an entire series. Although I’m not ready just yet to read the book on Italy after this. Additionally, I felt that the book could have been greatly enhanced by color photographs of the artwork they recovered. There were grainy, World War II era photos reprinted but they left a lot to be desired. I have been informed that there is a companion book of photographs but… I have Google too.