I finished my second book on my 2014 list of books to read. Labor Day is a distant memory (and I still haven't found anyone who wants to take it off my hands, free, which is a bit telling), and I've just finished The Monuments Men. Before I finished the book, we did go to see the movie. I was a little apprehensive that the movie would ruin the ending of the book for me, but it most assuredly did not. In fact, the movie is the Hollywood version of this story, which is a polite way of saying that the movie is about Allied efforts to find and preserve items of cultural significance, and that's about the only thing it has in common with the book. They so loosely based the movie on the book that they had to change the characters' names (except for, you know, Hitler and other well known individuals). So the movie didn't ruin the book for me at all, given its extreme dissimilarity with the truth as presented in the book.
We brought the kids to the movie, and they both enjoyed it. This was age appropriate for kids their age (10 and 12). It also created an opportunity for discussing some interesting points:
- Who is John Wayne and why would a German soldier know who he was?
- That vehicle they drive around in is a VW Thing, which was sold in the US as recently as the 1970's. For my Disney Channel watching offspring, I mentioned that was Raven's first car on That's So Raven.
- The American flag had 48 stripes, how that is easy to spot, and when those additional two stars were added (and why).
- Why the Nazis were looting all items of cultural significance and what they intended to do with them.
- What happened to the owners of the art, furniture, jewelry, and gold dental work confiscated by the Nazis. (The kids had some understanding of this; what we discussed more was how the extent of what the Nazis were doing was not fully understood until after their surrender.)
- Why there were children fighting in the German military at the end of the war.
- Why one Allied officer, armed only with a pistol, would not make the decision to attack a larger group of German soldiers who were also armed. (This for me was more common sense that historical/cultural discourse.)
So, it was a pretty interactive movie experience that the whole family enjoyed. I wish they had shown more of the art, but the movie was a good, extremely fictional account of this piece of history.
And the book? Much better than the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've read quite a few World War II memoirs/histories (and there's one coming up on the 2014 book list), and this was a bit more dry than those. That's understandable. The most exciting memoirs are from those who were on the front lines, young men who faced extremely difficult situations. There's much more action in them, much more colorful dialogue, much more going on - after all, these men lived with the much more immediate threat of death, and it created a certain intensity about the way they lived. The monuments men, in contrast, were mostly in their 40's, with families and/or careers. They were seldom on the front lines. Most of their danger seemed to lie in the ruins of villages the armies had fought through, in the form of booby traps and the occasional sniper left in the ruins. Their war wasn't safe; it just wasn't as lethal as that of the infantry they followed behind.
I keep saying this, and I will say it again, I think this book deserves better photos, or possibly a photo companion, to show readers what these men and women were fighting to save. However, even without that, it is still a worthwhile read and I would recommend it.
I've moved on to A Winter's Tale. I'm having a difficult time with it. I couldn't even begin to tell how many times I read the first chapter. After reading and rereading it, I still don't understand how Peter Lake and the horse ended up on the same side of the gate/wall. It doesn't make any sense. My other bone of contention is that the author seems to use twelve words where only one would do, and those extra eleven words don't add anything to the story. The Princess wants to see the movie - those commercials for it have caught her eye. I'm not sure I will make it through all 748 pages before the movie leaves the theaters. The reviews aren't great, but at least they managed to condense the book into a movie that is just under two hours. Score one for the movie!
I did peek at some of the reviews of this behemoth on Goodreads, and I'm not alone in my feelings about it. Has anyone else read this? Are you reading it now? What do you think?
I think I might just interrupt my reading of one of the most verbose tales ever to reread a book that I have already read. I saw the movie, too. But Grapes of Wrath is turning 75 this year and NPR is hosting a book club for it, so why not.
I picked up the new, 75th anniversary edition because I have no idea where my old copy of it is, if I even still own it. For those of you who like paper books, I highly recommend this edition. It's only $1.00 more than the regular paperback edition, but the paper it's printed on is nicer, as is the binding. It's a true joy of a softcover book to hold.
And the story ain't half bad, either! I read this book voluntarily, so I'm hoping that some of the 75th anniversary hoopla will give me more exposure to the more scholarly views of the book. Since I first read this book, I've also driven the length of Route 66, which is closely aligned with the routes that people took to escape the Oklahoma Dustbowl, so I'm also hoping that my life experience will enhance my rereading. Anyone care to join me?