It is a while now since I laughed out loud to a book, but this book thoroughly entertained me and had me crying with laughter at times.
Alan Carlson is one hundred years old when he climbs out of the window of his old peoples home, to avoid the fuss of a birthday party. This new adventure takes him across Sweden and even across the globe.
In his one hundred years, Carlson has met almost every important figure in Twentieth Century history. From Franco to Einstein, well Einstein's less brilliant brother Carlson crosses the Himalayas, is transported to a Soviet Gulag and even has dinner with and American President or two.
Jonasson weaves a story that will hold you to the very end of this book. Some have compared the story to the movie "Forest Gump" but Alan Carlson is no Forest Gump. This story brings together a host of loveable characters, an old thief, a hot dog seller, a group of not so master criminals, a policeman two German Shepherds and an elephant together with the old man himself.
The story of "The Monuments Men" has recently been portrayed in true Hollywood fashion in the movie of the same name, starring George Clooney.
The movie for the most part was based upon this book, and though the movie told the basic story, this book tells a much more frustrating and tortuous tale of a group of nine Allied soldiers, American and British who worked their way across Western Europe with the Allied Armies from June 1944 until just after the end of World War Two .
Their goal was simply to find tens of thousands of major art works created over the centuries of civilisation in the West and to return those items to their legal owners, private collectors, museums and churches, Most of the works of art had been stolen and transported to Germany by a systematic plan to rob the major cultural icons from their owners to fill the private homes of Nazi leaders and the cream of the collection to be housed in an enormous museum built for Adolf Hitler in his home city of Lintz, Austria.
For those who have seen the movie, the story is very different than the Hollywood portrayal. The book paints the task as more dangerous and arduous than the Hollywood movie.
The monuments men faced struggles with military authority, the sheer scale of the problem, nine men to search Europe and in the end the turmoil of occupation by Soviet forces in regions holding the most important treasures.
At the beginning of the book Edsel plods slowly through the back story of the Allied realization of the importance of such a group of men. But after the men reach the shores of Normandy the story begins to flow.
Along the way they meet several characters each of whom plays a major part in solving the puzzle. Possibly the most important being Rose Valon, a member of staff at the Louvre Museum, Paris. She had secretly catalogued every art theft from the museums and private collections that passed through her office. Narrowly escaping the wrath of the retreating Germans she faced a mob of howling "patriots: who stormed her office demanding revenge on the "Nazi collaborator."
Read the book. It tells a fascinating story of intrigue and courage.