Panther Soup: A European Journey in War and Peace

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9780091796730: Panther Soup: A European Journey in War and Peace

A chance encounter with an American WWII veteran leads John Gimlette on an astonishing journey through France, Germany and Austria.

In a journey that takes the author through the last months of the war, through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, and through cities that have risen from cinders, Panther Soup is a tale as rich, bleak and absurd as war itself.

There’s a colourful cast of survivors showing the way. But it’s the American veteran, Putnam Flint, who guides the author through the emotions of that time. Now 86, he had been one of nearly three million Americans moving across the face of the continent.

It had been a journey of unimaginable scale and complexity, an armoured migration, a wheeled city rolling through Europe. For most of his life, Flint has lived with the memories of a tank-mangled sludge (the “Panther Soup”) and finds himself once again speeding up the Rhone Valley, re-living the camps, visiting the villages he’d shelled, and meeting the children of the battlefield, now elderly themselves. They find the field where Flint mowed down the flak-crew, and the Austrian village where he dueled with a Nazi fanatic.

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From the Inside Flap:

By the end of World War II much of Western Europe was in chaos. The future of our world had been contested here, in the hinterlands of France and across the German plains. But what’s become of the battlefields now? Or the people that lived on them? And is there any trace of the 2.7 million Americans who smashed their way into the Reich (or the 12 million that followed)? With questions like these, the award-winning travel writer, John Gimlette, sets off on an astonishing journey into the past.

Beginning in Marseille and ending in the Austrian Tyrol, these are travels through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, and through cities that have risen from cinders. Along the way, Gimlette explores old camps and drinking dens, delves into the murky sub-culture of the war, and visits towns still reeling from the trauma. There’s a rich cast of survivors too: veterans, prisoners, a heroine of the resistance, a few charlatans, Rommel’s son, an Austrian chatelaine and of course the children of the blitz. Panther Soup is the story of these encounters, a tale as bleak and absurd as war itself.

But this is also an uplifting tale of recovery, friendship and regeneration. Foremost amongst the survivors is an American called Putnam Flint. Sixty years earlier, Flint had fought with the tank destroyers (or ‘Panthers’) and had ridden along with the great wheeled city that rolled through Europe. It had been an undertaking of unimaginable scale and complexity, and for most of his life, Flint has lived with the memories of the tank-mangled sludge (the ‘Panther Soup’ of the title). Now, for the first time, he’ll return, and, as he and Gimlette retrace the old campaign trail, a very different Europe is revealed to them both.

From the Back Cover:

‘As a descriptive writer, a master of the telling observation and the well-chosen epithet, [Gimlette] is in the highest class’ Max Davidson, Daily Telegraph

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