Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer with Mike Yorkey

Recent investigative reports about art stolen during World War II finally being returned to descendants of the original owners along with the popular movie Monuments Men has peaked my interest in the whole plot of Nazi leaders to procure the world's most famous art, both to create an unparalleled museum named after Hitler and to build their own personal wealth.  As years go by I find there is so many different facets to much of world history- events, plots, and ramifications that we never learned about in school, even in advanced history classes.  When  fiction writers take on one of those lesser known aspects, I always want to know what level of research they did and how close to truthful events they stay.  I find we can learn so much from historical fiction, but only when we evaluate what is fiction and what is fact.   

Recently I read Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey.  Swiss OSS workers Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler have arrived in Paris just as the German are fleeing.  Many fear that the retreating Germans will burn the city (in fact that had been Hitler's orders) and the different factions of the French Resistance fight to save Paris.  During the years of occupation, Paris's vast art collections, especially the works housed in the famous Louvre have been systematically loaded on trains to be hidden by the Nazi's.  Some were destined for the large museum Hitler has planned, but other masterpieces made their way into Nazi officer's private collections.  Reichsmarschall Hermann G├Âring sends Colonel Heller to arrange for the theft of the world's most beloved portrait, the Mona Lisa.
Goring feels if he can get the painting to a neutral Swiss bank, he will have the bargaining chip he needs for his own personal safety.  Throughout the war, he has been able to track the various hiding places of the Mona Lisa by threatening the safety of young Louvre's curator and her boyfriend, a resistance hero.  This book had plenty of action and I learned a lot about occupied Paris.  I had never realized that there were different factions of resistance fighters, including a strong Communist presence.  Much of what this book said about the Louvre was similar to what the movie MONUMENTS MEN portrays.  Of course the large question that loomed as I read Chasing Mona Lisa was whether the Nazis ever tried to steal this particular work, so when I finished the book I did a little internet research myself.  If you are interested in the answer read this article.  
Chasing Mona Lisa is actually the second book featuring the war adventures of Gabi and Eric.  I imagine the first book's plot tells their romantic story, but I did not need to have read The Swiss Courier to understand or enjoy this book.  Goyer and Yorkey did a fine job of telling a fiction story but also deepening our understanding of a unique place and time.

I got a copy of this novel from WPLC, Wisconsin's Public libraries' source for ebooks.  


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