The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi

KissingSailor250Next up in my Book Challenge, I wanted a bit of history lesson, and this was a nice investigation into an iconic photograph. The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi look into the story behind the infamous Kissing Sailor picture that was taken as news of the end of World War II spread throughout New York. The authors look to tell the story that led up to this photo and definitively prove the identity of the sailor and the nurse.

Sounds good, right? I thought this might be a nice piece of trivia to pull out of my sleeve, but unfortunately, the book fell flat for me.

Turns out, the magazine that originally published the photo LIFE attempted to find out the identity of the sailor in 1980, but with many ages veterans coming forward with different stories, there was just not enough evidence in the photo to corroborate any man’s story.

The nurse’s identity seemed easier, when the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt declared Edith Shain the nurse after meeting her. During their research, the authors find another woman with a more convincing claim to be the girl in the photo, but because Eisenstaedt gave his stamp of approval to Shain, she was widely accepted as the nurse.

Confused yet? Verria and Galdorisi do nothing to help you out. After laying out a great story, the authors go over the evidence of the top candidates, and this is where they lost me. For some of the men, Verria and Galdorisi dive so far into the evidence that it felt more boring than the part of jury duty where you wait around for hours watching daytime television hoping you will be called to serve or dismissed.

This book is great in theory. In fact, the story of the authors back as the most credible is very compelling. The photographer was nearly killed in World War I; the sailor barely  survived a deadly typhoon; and the woman in the photo, an Austrian Jew who lost her family to the Holocaust, almost did not make it to the United States. I understand the need to acknowledge the other candidates’ claims to be the man and woman in the photograph, but by spending so much of the book dwelling on all the red herrings, the essence of the book is lost and so is the reader.

Next up: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


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