Panther Soup

Gimlette, John. Panther Soup: Travels Through Europe in War and Peace. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

John Gimlette is a travel writer with a flair for the historical with a bit of humor thrown in along the way. In Panther Soup Gimlette decides to retrace the European footsteps of the U.S. Army of 1944. He chooses to take Putnam Flint, a veteran of the tank destroyer battalion, “The Panthers” as his guide. Together, along with Flint’s son, they travel Flint’s path through France into Germany, starting with the seedy city of Marseille. This sets the tone for the entire travel adventure. Marseille had been described as “lethally weird,” and “a freak show for the chronically unhygienic” (p 26). Having Flint along as a guide allows Gimlette to dip into history and provide commentary on the regions as Flint experienced them in 1944.

Too many quotes, but here are a few of my favorites: “He remembered…a huge vat of Tunisian wine that it’s taken his comrades a week to drink. It was only when they had reached the bottom that they had found a dead New Zealander pickling in the dregs” (p 73), “The more you paid, the less you got; or at least you got a bigger piece of nothing” (p 92), “Clearly, to live a la Bouruinonne is to enjoy a life of red wine and cream, and to die aged forty-two under someone else’s wife” (p 100), and one more, “Over at the Beat Hotel, meanwhile, they’d written little that made any sense at all” (p 177).

Reason read: The Panthers traveled from Northern France in October 1944.

Author fact: Gimlette won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize and the Wanderlust Travel Writing Award AND practices law (according to the back flap of Panther Soup.)

Book trivia: In addition to photographs, Panther Soup has delightful illustrations and informative maps.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Explaining Europe: the Grand Tour” (p 82).

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