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Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) was a woman of enormous accomplishment. Writer and journalist, she covered the major international conflicts of her lifetime, from the Spanish civil war to Vietnam, managed to land on Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day, entered Dachau a few days after it was liberated, observed the Nuremberg trials and, in the course of a long life, visited and wrote about most of the areas of the world. But she was a woman working in a man's world and, as the subtitle of Moorehead's first-rate biography reminds us, hers was a 20th century life, filled with all the contradictions between private and public existence experienced by most achieving women of her generation. As her first husband, Ernest Hemingway, put it before their acrimonious divorce, "Are you a war correspondent or wife in my bed?" a question Gellhorn finally answered by leaving him. As Moorehead shows, Gellhorn, at once tough and vulnerable, was surefooted in her professional life and capable of enduring friendships with people as varied as Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Capa (some of whose photos are included) and Leonard Bernstein. Her intimate life was another matter, with both her marriages and her numerous affairs all ending in tears. Moorehead, the author of well-received biographies of Iris Origo and Bertrand Russell, was a friend of Gellhorn's, but the affection and admiration she feels for her subject (to whose papers she had exclusive access) does not prevent her from providing a vivid, balanced and fascinating portrait of a "woman who was oddly deaf to the intonations of feminism," and yet who paid a price for her independent spirit. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From The New Yorker
From her early days as a correspondent in the Spanish Civil War to her coverage, at the age of eighty-five, of murdered Brazilian street children, Martha Gellhorn was a defender of the underdog. Scornful of "all that objectivity shit" and intemperate in her judgments—friends were exiled, lovers dismissed—Gellhorn was driven to her itinerant existence by a terror of boredom. She was tall, blond, and legendarily tough; her marriage to Hemingway was celebrated with a dinner of roast moose. At the age of thirty-one, she travelled to Finland to await the Russian invasion; at forty-one, she adopted a child who had been abandoned in postwar Italy; in her fifties, she reported on the Vietnam War. Throughout, she remained a solitary being. "I only loved the world of men," she wrote to a friend, "not the world of men-and-women."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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She withstood hardship in several countries as part of her task in gathering facts and writing news pieces.
Prior to meeting Hemingway in Florida in 1935, Martha had numerous love affairs and a few aborted pregnacies. Sex came easily to this tall leggy blonde but love was more elusive. She did not enjoy sex and more than once sought medical advice.
In Paris, pre-war she wrote..."No one reached out for me, really, not for what I wanted or wanted to become, but grabbed for my body...It was never any good. The only part I ever liked was arms around me and an illlusion of tenderness."
During their affair and short marriage, Martha and Hemingway fought and were openly unhappy. And what did not help was they were professional contestents - Hemingway striving to outdo Martha, with the advantage he was alreadly a leader, well known in journalistic circles.
Martha became well known after splitting with Heminway and endured further relationships which in the end went nowhere. She continued to write, and was heavily in demand as a lecturer. Travel remained her passion.
Ill health eventually took its toll but she lived until 1998 a which time she quietly suicided.
This book takes an in depth look at a strong woman and her performances stand out on every page. This is a book you will want to share with others.
I did not find this book boring.It is a book that would interest most readers that enjoy reading about 20th century history.Gellhorn's strong personality,wartime reporting,travel episodes ,love and sex life,marriage to Hemingway,and general passage through life offer a lot of spice for the reader. Though Gellhorn was a bit prickly or "difficult" at times,she was a witness to a substantial number of historical events.Her reports were first class and continue to be popular today within the reading public (The Face of War,Travels with Myself and Another, etc).Unquestionally she was a controversial character, but she counted and is an appropriate subject of interest.