[Review] Shadowed by Grace: A Story of Monuments Men by Cara C. Putman
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Title: Shadowed by Grace: A Story of Monuments Men
Author: Cara C. Putman
Publisher: B and H Publishing January 1, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction, romance, World War II, photographer, Italy, art, the Monuments, women in World War II
Rating: 4 Stars for Very Good
Source: Free copy from Litfuse Publicity and B and H Publishing in exchange for a review.
"The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program" was "established in 1943" during World War II.
The group was "under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies."
Their job was to protect, secure, rescue, fine arts stolen by Germany.
Both men and women were involved in this mission. See link for more information from Wikipedia.
The time period is March 1944. Shadowed by Grace, begins with a conversation between a young woman named Rachel and her editor. She wants to travel to Italy to cover combat operations and her boss is uneasy. Her sick mother is in a Philadelphia hospital. Rachel has another reason for wanting to go to Italy; however, her secondary goal does not have the blessing from her mother. Rachel is given "press credentials" and an "honorary classification as captain" and sent overseas to Italy. She is assigned to a lieutenant who is apart of the Monuments group and he will be her escort.
Shadowed by Grace, gave me the opportunity to do further research.
(By the way, The movie Monuments Men begins today at theaters.)
I am familiar with the Monuments Men; but had not read books on this history.
My dad a Veteran of World War II, D-day Omaha Beach and Battle of the Bulge. Dad passed away last August. He and I both have read extensively books on World War II.
The main character in Shadowed by Grace is a photographer, not a writer. There were few women photographers and writers involved in journalism work during World War II. These women were gutsy, defiant, independent. It was not considered feminine or socially acceptable for a woman to do this type of work. (Several links are given below with the emphasis on women journalists during World War II.)
I'm reminded of a story my dad told about when he was photographed for a photo in Life Magazine August 1944 issue. He thought the photographer was crazy for being out there in the middle of, "Battle of the Hedgerows." I can imagine my dad's shock if he'd seen a woman photographer, he would have been appalled and angry.
Pros and Cons:
1. I believe Shadowed by Grace has correct historical facts. One minor problem I disliked, the names of the main characters are modern. Rachel is an Old Testament bible name, but not common for children born in 1920 (in the US.) Two other names, Tyler and Scott are modern names. (See link below from the Social Security Administration of the top names for children born in 1920.) I feel it would've given better authenticity to have common names used for this era.
2. In the military, rank and last names are used. I noticed when speaking audibly to each other last names are used, but in their thoughts first names are used. I feel last names should have been precedent. Although, the Monuments Men were not trained military, they were assigned to the Civil Affairs and Military Government Section, it is possible they did not have to adhere to the using of last names and rank.
3. Shadowed by Grace, had an opportunity to share a story which has not been told before in a Christian fiction book, female photographers and journalists during World War II. I feel this became a background for a love story. I would have liked to see Rachel's personality more tough, resilient, gutsy. She had a double focus in her mission to Italy; but as soon as her "boots" were on the ground she is persuaded by a handsome face.
4. I feel Shadowed by Grace gives a vivid impression of several factors: civilian abuse, death, carnage of war, fear of enemy, lack of food and shelter.
5. A brief mention of Mt. Vesuvius interruption, March 1944. This was the last time Vesuvius interrupted. I thought this is really interesting the author showing another bit of history.
6. I have an old book of my dad's, it's from the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army: U. S. Army in World War II European Theater of Operations Cross-Channel Attack by G. A. Harrison. I wanted to point out the history of 5th Army in Italy operations. The 5th Army is where Rachel is later assigned.
"The landing behind the enemy lines facing the Fifth Army was designed to force the Germans to pull out and leave the road to Rome open. Instead of pulling out, the Germans held the Fifth Army attack at the Gustav Line and counterattacked the beachhead." ---This was early in 1944.
Over-all I really liked this book. I did not give the book 5 stars, because I would have liked less dilly- dally romance, more of the war and what the Monuments Men did.
Top baby names in 1920:
To read more about women photographers and journalists during World War II: