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That Bloody Woman: A Biography of Emily Hobhouse [Paperback]

John Hall
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
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Book Description

7 May 2008
Now virtually forgotten, Emily Hobhouse was in her time one of the most controversial figures in the world, hailed as a second Florence Nightingale yet denounced as a traitor to her country. To Lord Kitchener she was always "that bloody woman" but to her friend Gandhi she was "one of the noblest and bravest of women". A handsome, restless, highly-strung spinster from a genteel Cornish rectory, she exposed the concentration camps set up in South Africa during Britain's conflict with the Boers and embarked on a secret one-woman peace mission to Berlin at the height of the First World War. A whirlwind of contradictions, she was a pacifist with a weakness for generals, an evangelist who shrank from talk of God, a feminist who craved wedded bliss and babies. Intense, vulnerable and defiant, she revealed flaws on the same heroic scale as her virtues, but her towering courage saves thousands of lives - mostly of women and children - at the cost of her health, fortune and reputation.
This definitive account of a tragic but inspiring life uncovers remarkable links between Emily Hobhouse and her great adversary Lord Kitchener and suggests why this astonishing woman is denied her rightful place in history to the present day.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Truran; First Edition edition (7 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1850222177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1850222170
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 529,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Excellent biography... John Hall writes beautifully and often wittily.
-- The Oldie, November 2008

That rare kind of book, a work of non-fiction which reads with the intrigue of a thriller... a mighty work.
-- Western Morning News, May 6, 2008

Review

Excellent biography... John Hall writes beautifully and often wittily.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A troublesome heroine 11 Jun 2008
Format:Paperback
A first class biography of Emily Hobhouse - long forgotten in England but a household name, admired and reviled in equal measure, at the time of the Boer War. She brought relief to the women and children imprisoned in British concentration camps in South Africa, where her name is still revered.
John Hall wears his impressive depth of research lightly, tracing parallels between the career of Hobhouse and her implacable opponent, Kitchener. This extraordinary story of an 'impossible' woman is illustrated by many previously unpublished photographs. Highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gem of a book 28 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
The cool, elegant style of this study of Emily Hobhouse is a reproach to the overblown journalese of the sort of historical biographies which tend to make the best-seller lists today. And how extraordinary that such an amazing woman is almost forgotten. This fine book tries to make amends and is surely destined to remain the definitive portrait.
The unsuspected links betwen Hobhouse and her arch-enemy Lord Kitchener are told for the first time and provide perhaps the most enthralling part of the story - above all, there is the spooky description of how their two coffins were briefly reunited at Southampton, ten years after Kitchener's death. Altogether, a gem of a biography.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsung heroine 26 May 2010
Format:Paperback
I think it a terrible shame that most of the British puplic have never heard of this remarkable woman. As per usual, I suppose, she represented the "losing" side and was castigated for her views. If you have any humanity in you at all, you can't not be moved by her efforts to help Boer women and children, and the way the mighty British Empire treated her. It is all the more remarkable because she was one of "them". The fact that there is no memorial to her (that I am aware of) in this country is nothing short of a disgrace.
She was a heroine in the same sense as Florence Nightingale, (who everone has heard of) and Violette Szabo who probably only came to the fore following the film "Carve Her Name with Pride". So,to anyone out there in the film production world her story would make a fascinating feature film, and bring her to the attention of a much greater audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-crafted portrait of an amazing woman 2 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What was it possible to achieve as an enterprising woman 100 years ago? How about this for a CV:

- exposing the British concentration camp system in the Boer War to the wider world (and being forceably deported as a result by the authorities who would much rather keep it a secret)
- co-ordinating and carrying out relief work there, saving many lives in the process
- setting up a network of cloth-making schools in South Africa after the war
- interceding between Gandhi and the authorities in South Africa, helping to end discrimination against Indians
- resolutely opposing the First World War, including arguing against and influencing Gandhi, who was supporting the British war effort at the time
- personally travelling to Germany in an effort to broker peace and nearly being tried for treason as a result
- carrying out extensive relief work in Germany in the aftermath, again saving many lives

John Hall has rescued Emily from obscurity with this sympathetic but warts-and-all biography - he avoids the temptation to portray her as a superhuman saint and she may well have been someone who, in the words of her friend Ruth Fry, was "easier to love from a distance". The book is easy to read, well researched, and deserves a wider audience.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not to praise her but bury her 22 April 2012
By V. Pyle
Format:Paperback
Since I lived close to Emily Hobhouse's family home I was most interested to read this book - and was amazed. The author seems not to have approved of her, and certainly not admired her, and most credit-worthy actions of Emily are downplayed or frankly at times turned into a negative. There are also a lot of assumptions made like - her brother would have thought etc. She sounds like a silly woman who made frequent mistakes - until you get to the last few pages. The author then seems to realise this is supposed to rate her more highly than previously and describes how her ashes were treated in South Africa and how well they thought of her there.
At no point did the author breathe life into the character of Emily Hobhouse, and he certainly didn't understand her. These are facts coloured by that hand.
On the positive side there is a good exploration of the Boar War and about the various political characters involved. He seems very keen on telling Kitcheners story (?) and a number of others. It is very useful from this perspective.
Emily did make mistakes but her humanity overcomes this. For example not much is made of the fact that she was against apparteit and therefore before her time and from her background this would be unusual. She was rated very highly by Gandhi, but reading this book you wonder why!
I would not say don't read this book, but read it looking beyond the authors interpretations and watching out for "he must have thought" ,"she demanded" etc. There are some interesting facts, but I shall await a sensitive biography which probably needs to be written by a woman.
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