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on 23 February 2012
This is a story that demands a major audience. Hitler's war placed in jeopardy much of the world's greatest artwork, and this tells the story of what happened to parts of that art and how efforts were made by the Allies to avoid damaging it and to reclaim stolen art for its true owners.

If it were for the subject matter alone, this book would get five stars. Unluckily the story has been told from an almost exclusively American perspective, as if auditioning for a Hollywood screenplay. Americans' actions are described in an irritatingly folksy way, including many comments from their papers showing their national bigotry (e.g. saying that Roosevelt stood almost alone against the Nazis), while their British colleagues are almost ignored. This may be down to the facts that the author is American and that his admittedly extensive research relies heavily on Americans' memoirs. Perhaps equivalent British sources don't exist?

Read it for the incredible events contained within and for the passion for art that the author convincingly conveys to the reader, but forgive the style and remember that the Americans weren't the only people involved.
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on 10 January 2014
Fascinating story badly told.
Meandering across a vast array of information, moments of real excitement exploded by deathly prose compounded by repetition and imputed thought and speech. An important record but a bad historical novel!
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on 27 December 2010
A really good story which deserves to be well writen. Sadly this is not the case....Edsel's style (if that is what it is) is to put together...not in chronolgical order...a disjointed account of these US soldiers at the end of WW2.The English is truly appalling, with badly constructed sentences, which are often repeated in different chapters of the book.Chapters are often only a few paragraphs long.I really objected to the, probably fabricated, innermost thoughts of this group of men....why is it necessary to include such speculation?
A missed oppurtunity.
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on 30 December 2012
The story of the brave and dedicated people striving to preserve Art is amazing. Unfortunately it is poorly written , has a disjointed story line, and is far too long.

I wanted to follow the stories of all the monument people as they had taken on such an important job, with few resources, but I found I was distracted by the lack of cohesion and storytelling skills.

The book is worth reading as the events undertaken are impressive, but be prepared to be tolerant of the author's poor skill.
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on 25 November 2014
The writer of this book has managed to turn a moderately interesting story into a thoroughly dull and irritating one. It's badly written, unevenly paced, with much jumping about between insufficiently distinguishable characters plus endless repetition that wouldn't be necessary if the characters had more -- well -- character, and there was less frequent cutting to other locations. Plus it's s-l-o-w.

But for me, as a UK person with parents who both had first-hand overseas Services experience of WW2, the most annoying factor is its very US-centric focus.

I hope it's not necessary to give US readers as much explanatory detail about Europe as this author (or his editor) seems to feel they require and I'm sure European readers (UK included) have no need of it. I mean, I know where Belgium is and that Paris is the French capital, and I can't be the only one who does…

It is perfectly possible that my take on America's role in the second world war was never going to coincide with the author's, given my family background, and younger British or European readers may not agree with me. However, I have to say I found unacceptable and deeply patronising his view, both implied and overt, repeatedly expressed, that when the US army arrived in Europe the war was, consequently, all but over.

There are not many books that I can't make myself persevere to the end of, but this was one. The sad thing is that in other hands it could perhaps have been fascinating.
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"The Monuments Men" by Robert M. Edsel is story about the Monuments Men, less-known people that risked their lives near or behind lines of Nazi Germany to prevent from destruction many precious works of art.
Due to those brave American and British museum directors, curators and art historians numerous culturally important objects and things were preserved and this book tells their story from the perspective of six of those brave men.

The events portrayed in book are happening last year of the WW II when Monuments Man followed advancing Allied forces from the West, after the D-day and invasion to Italy took place, while they try desperately and with minimum support, sometime even without understanding, to perform their valuable job.

There are many interesting individual cases that were mentioned in the book, like painstakingly following the trail of the art pieces that were stolen from the Louvre while the Nazi regime was in charge, or supervising extraction of stolen paintings and other artwork from the salt mines where they were stored by Nazis.
Through the book a motive of "love of art" will be mentioned many times, a syntagm that was used by Nazis as an explanation why so many art pieces were stolen from the museums and other places.

It was great to read how art can unite people, even from the opposing sides in WW II like in the case with one German expert in art who helped the French Louvre manager to reduce the consequences of the museum looting to the minimum possible.
The author also without any sentiment is telling about some events that are almost surreal like a story describing how the people from one village in Belgium jointly decided to save one valuable work of art from the Middle Ages, even though everything around them is almost completely destroyed.

Overall, this book will be a good read for all those interested in WW II and art, a well-researched and well-written book that brought new light on some lesser-known events of the time period that is so often been the subject of numerous literary works, but almost no one has referred to these brave people who enable millions of people today to enjoy the works of art that were on the verge of being gone forever.

Due to that, I recommend you to read it in order to, next time you will look at some work of art that was rescued by Monuments Men, you remember them and thus pay tribute to their remarkable feat.
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on 19 August 2009
Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

I saw Mr. Edsel on a BBC Segment and immediately ordered this book. It is hard to imagine why such an extraordinary story about a group of such extraordinary men and women has not been told until now. Congratulations to Mr. Edsel for finally writing about the "greatest untold story of WWII" and for bringing attention to these heroes of civilization. The world owes much to them for risking their lives to save so many of our most precious cultural treasures. In one word, this story is remarkable and this book should be a must own for every school library, military base, and politician as a reminder of the legacy of the Monuments Men and of the importance of protecting culture in times of conflict.
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on 7 May 2014
I bought this because I'd heard some of the complaints about the movie, especially the mis-representation of the British involvement and people involved. This is the book on which the film was (very loosely) based and having read this I can see why some people are upset about the shameful way some real people are portrayed on screen. I can see why the long and complex story of the real teams had to be compressed and made more exciting for a movie, but the producers should have presented it as complete fiction with fictional characters, instead they pretended that this gives a realistic portrayal. Although this does get a little bit dry and dull in places (which I tended to skip-read) it is well written and gives a very different account of the events and personalities involved. If you wonder how so much of European art and architecture survived the Second World War, this is well worth reading.
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on 7 November 2013
Interesting, if not very interesting subject, but the writing is all over the place. A fidgety read, easy to put down and above all forgettable.
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on 11 September 2014
I would recommend this book but be careful not to compare it with the film - the two are very separate. I have given this book only 4 stars because it praises the American war effort above everyone elses'. It also does nothing to commemorate in full the true heroine of the MAFF, Rose Valland. In my opinion, she sounds like a true inspiration but that does not mean to say that any of the people mentioned in this book were not an inspiration because they were. Yes, its a book written for an American audience and although the English is passible, I just wish American authors would get past the most awful expression, "gotten". Please try and use a more pleasing and succinct wording such as "achieved", "obtained", "acquired" etc.

Putting all the above to one side, I found this book hard to put down. Afterall it is very readable (its accuracy is another matter for debate perhaps?) of how Western and Eastern European art and culture was saved from either complete greed or complete annhilation and therefore makes for an excellent account of one of the greatest art crimes ever committed. Please remember that the subject matter is large and the achievements etc., of MAFF are far too numerous to dismiss or even to comprehend. Do give this book a chance, you will be glad you did.
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