The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

It’s not often that I do a book review here. I am a part of the team at Hanging on Every Word, and I spend a lot of time on Goodreads (too much time, probably), so most of my reviews go up at either of those places.

But last week I finished a book that I really wanted to post about, and because it’s not strictly a review, I decided to post it here. I heard about The Monuments Men a while ago, when I was looking for new books to add to my to-read list. It tells the true story of a group of people who dedicated themselves to preserving the cultural heritage of the world during World War II. In reality, there were around 350 men and women who served on the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives section (MFAA) of the Allied armed forces, and this book tells the story of eight of them.

I have read a lot about World War II, but it has always been social history, with a bit of military history thrown in. But this is a story that I’ve never heard before; how millions of pieces of artwork were stolen from all across Europe by the Nazis. After D-Day, when the Allies had invaded and were on their way through Germany, the MFAA began to find out where many of the artefacts were being stored, and set about retrieving them.

It really is a fascinating story; whilst reading the book you really start to feel as though you know these soldiers who are risking their lives to safeguard some of the most important cultural treasures of the world. Included throughout are letters from the soldiers to their loved ones at home; one soldier wrote to his wife to tell her that he had refused some gold pieces, because he had “absolutely no greed for it”, and that her “poem means more to me.”

The book came to my attention because I found out that its film adaptation was George Clooney’s next project. He is co-writing, producing and directing the film, as well as starring in it as George Stout, one of the Monuments Men, and my favourite ‘character’ from the book. George Clooney never seems to take anything on half-heartedly, and we all know what a talented writer and director he is (he’s been Oscar nominated for both in the past). And this is truly a thrilling and interesting story. So I’m really, really looking forward to seeing the film. It also stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville and Jean DuJardin. They have been filming in Europe, and have just recently arrived in England to film some scenes here. Yesterday, they were filming in Rye, and they have apparently taken over some 85 rooms at Pontins in Camber Sands. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating this is; I was right near there on holiday just a couple of weeks ago! I want to go back!

7 thoughts on “The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

  1. Looks like a good read….like you said when you think of the war saving historic pieces of art doesn’t come to the forefront of your mind …. Will definitely add this to my list of books to read !!

  2. What a fascinating story!
    I agree with picklersmum, It’s not the sort of thing you think of when thinking about the Second World War.
    Definately be putting this on my book list – and will get my other half to read it as well (he loves anything WWII) x

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