November 20, 2010

Literary Pick (**)

The Rape of Europa
Lynn H. Nicholas

Having read and loved "Monuments Men", By Robert Edsel in which Lynn H. Nicholas also collaborated in, along with several books on Peggy Guggenheim, I expected "The Rape of Europa" to fill in the gaps that I felt Edsel didn't satisfy. I'm not usually one to complain about details if they're presented with enough background to guide you through the text, especially since it was the primary reason why I wanted to read the book in the first place, however, in the "Rape of Europa", Nicholas seems to assume the reader already has a basic understanding of the wheelings and dealings that occurred with the Art of Europe during the second world war. To be quite honest I didn't even know anything about the looting of European art until about 3 years ago. Since then I've been fascinated by the history and hoped that Nicholas' "Rape of Europa" would shed some light on it's details for me, but unfortunately, she failed to do so. I got more from the pictures printed in the book than the actual text. I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, so needless to say I'm a extremely disappointed, to say the least. I watched the PBS special on the Rape of Europa as well, and became even more interested in reading the book which made me finally order it. There were geographical details about the war I learned and am grateful for, but she went into painfully unnecessary details that do not interest the average reader. This book is perfect for a scholar, but unless you have pretty decent background of WWII, Hitler, Art, and political figures involved, I don't see how you can learn from it as a primary source. One of the things that annoyed me about Lynn which was very typical in her writing is that, as I mentioned, she goes into these tediously long details about things and people that don't really matter to the average reader yet totally glossed over important events the reader would want to know more about, like the reaction of everyone involved when Hitler committed suicide, or the destruction of Goering's Carinhall, and his trial.
I can't believe I waited this long to read this book and got almost nothing out of it. I challenge anyone who isn't a scholar and doesn't have any WWII background to sit down and walk me through everything they've learned from this book. This was one of the most frustrating reads for me. I gave it two stars because I did learn a couple of things from it.
Oddly enough though, whenever I try to retell parts that I've read, I get choked up. It's a very powerful story in itself. I always think of the missing art pieces as ancient children trying to eternally find their way home. I hope I'm able to find another book on the subject in which I'm able to learn more from.



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