Originally published Monday, 14 April 2014.
Set in World War II, the story gives a glimpse into the work of the MFAA, or the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program, an organization formed by the Allied armies with the express purpose of locating and protecting works of art and other items of cultural importance that had either been stolen by the Nazis or hidden for safekeeping.
The novel zeroes in on the stories of Captain Rachel Justice and Lieutenant Scott Lindstrom, whose lives intersect through their work in the war. Rachel is a photojournalist who travels to Europe with the hope of finding her father, a man she has never met. Her desperation is evident as her mother lies dying of tuberculosis, and she is convinced that the only way to save her mom is to find her father in hopes that he will show sympathy and give money for medical treatment.
Scott Lindstrom is a member of the Monuments Men, assigned with the task of tracking down missing works of art, assessing damage already done by the war, and restoring important monuments, religious institutions and museums.
Even though I just finished reading a very thorough and lengthy textbook on both World Wars as part of our homeschooling curriculum, I had never before heard of the Monuments Men. I first heard about this book in relation to the film, Monuments Men, which was just released this year. Apparently there is a sudden surge of interest in this little-known component of the war effort, though Putman completed her manuscript before learning of the upcoming movie, and the two have no direct relation.
I did appreciate this new angle of looking at the war from a fresh perspective, as I had never considered the effect of the war on historical artifacts and works of art. As an art-lover, I have a new appreciation for those who labored to protect and restore the pieces that were created prior to the war and have been preserved for our enjoyment. According to the Smithsonian website, “Without the work of these curators and professors, tens of thousands of priceless works of art would have been lost to the world forever.”
A friend of mine recently blogged about watching a documentary called “Hunting Hitler’s Stolen Treasures: The Monuments Men.” One description about the documentary claims, “Without the deliberate actions taken by the Monuments Men, an important chapter of history would have been completely lost.”
In my friend’s post, he links the actions of the Monuments Men to the Christian life and the monumental task of preserving not only the past, but of protecting the future, particularly by looking after and encouraging the flock. His post got me thinking about the importance, as Christians, of preserving the legacy of the faith that has been passed down to us, from one generation to the next.
It got me asking the question, “How am I seeking to preserve the treasure of the gospel passed on to me, in this spiritually war-ravaged land?”
The storyline itself as it transpires in Shadowed by Grace is somewhat predictable for the majority of the book. There is an unexpected twist near the end, but overall, the plot is not overly engaging. The romance that builds between Rachel and Scott does not come across very naturally, as it might play out in real life. This was the first book I have read by Cara Putman. It was a pleasant read, and the writing has potential, but just didn’t have that “wow” factor.
If I had to give this book a rating, I would probably give it 3.5 stars out of five.
I received a free copy of this book from B&H Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.