Friday, August 9, 2013

Sneaking in educational content isn't only for kids!

I would like to apologize right now for the vagueness of this review. It's not vague because I didn't really read the book, or because I feel the information imparted is unimportant in any way, it's because I listened to this novel on audiobook, so I have no idea how to spell many of the names of the people, places, or works of art that are so integral to this story. Normally I'd just check out a copy of the print book and double check myself, but the movie of this book (starring George Clooney) is being released in October, so there's a long waiting list for The Monuments Men at the local library. Rather than totally mangle spellings, or wait forever to do this review, I am deliberately leaving out details.

During World War II the U.S. government charged a relatively small group of especially selected, uniquely qualified, enlisted men with protecting the cultural heritage of the countries at war and under attack. These MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives) men worked with Army units on the front lines. As the units moved into new territory, the MFAA would evaluate the area’s historical buildings with an eye to preservation and restoration. Additionally, the men would interview local officials in an effort locate known missing artwork. It wasn't only artillery that was endangering the cultural heritage of Europe.

Throughout World War II the Nazi agenda included the confiscation of famous art collections from private collections and, later, museums and galleries. Many of the statues, alter pieces, and paintings are works that are in museums and on display today are only here because of the work of the MFAA.

I sucked at history in school. All through school, in fact, this was my least favorite subject. I’m finding out now that history is way more fascinating than I realized. I was also pleased to find out that one of the Monuments Men, Robert Posey, was from Alabama. Another, Walter Hancock, was an artist whose work I’d studied in art history classes. The Monuments Men pulled me in by following careers of these and other key men in MFAA, and sneakily taught me more about World War II than my history teachers ever managed.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heres, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel
Publication Date: September 2009
Audiobook Reader: Jeremy Davidson
Length: 14 hours, 15 minutes

Rating (out of five stars): Five stars

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