Panther Soup: A European Journey in War and Peace

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9780091921385: Panther Soup: A European Journey in War and Peace

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.

(2004-09-22)

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Review:

An original travel book, written in vigorous prose and exhaustively researched... it has at its heart a profound understanding of the "soup" - the chaos and madness - of war -- Daily Telegraph

As a born traveller and writer, he takes an epicurean pleasure in place and language -- Tom Fort, Sunday Telegraph

`A book that works on many levels - historical guide, social history, moving reunion of people and place - and does each superbly' -- Wanderlust

`A very special piece of travel writing. To journey past familiar European landmarks with someone who knew them in the post-war chaos of the 1940s is both moving and illuminating' -- Tim Butcher, author of Blood River

`An important book... It is at once raw and erudite, deeply moving and strangely leisurely. It's also rich in black humour and insight' -- Rory Maclean, Guardian

`Gimlette has a gift for travel writing with details of the most intimate kind... A subtle book, with telling testimony from the survivors of what it was actually like to fight a war with few rules' -- Hugh Thomson, Independent

`Gimlette is an assured enough writer to reveal a very different contemporary Europe, constructed on the smouldering ruins of its predecessor' -- Traveller

Book Description:

A chance encounter with an American WWII veteran leads John Gimlette, the award-winning travel writer, on an astonishing journey through France, Germany and Austria.

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