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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Women of the Spanish civil war
The author of this book, Paul Preston, is a highly regarded writer on matters Spanish and in particular on the Spanish civil war. The book is actually four separate sections, each focusing on women who were outstanding during the war. Preston claims that he wanted to write about how four women, from quite separate backgrounds and for quite different reasons, made...
Published on 13 July 2011 by John D. Wallace

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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comparing four experiences of the Spanish Civil War
Paul Preston is arguably the greatest British authority on the Spanish Civil War. In this work, he portrays the exploits, experiences and sufferings of four very different women who were personally involved on both sides of the war effort.
The personalities, backgrounds and political allegiances of each woman provides a stark contrast. The book covers the lives of...
Published on 7 July 2004 by stewartalec


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Women of the Spanish civil war, 13 July 2011
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This review is from: Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
The author of this book, Paul Preston, is a highly regarded writer on matters Spanish and in particular on the Spanish civil war. The book is actually four separate sections, each focusing on women who were outstanding during the war. Preston claims that he wanted to write about how four women, from quite separate backgrounds and for quite different reasons, made outstanding contributions to the war and this aim is fulfilled. However, I did find that in attempting to fill in the detail surrounding each woman's part in the conflict, the essence of how each woman felt from their personal perspective was somewhat subjugated. This was particularly so, I felt, in the life of Mercedes Sanz-Bachiller. where the political machinations were described in great detail to the detriment of where Mercedes fitted in and how she reacted. If you were buying this book because you were expecting to read about the war from a woman's perspective, you might be disappointed, bearing in mind the immense background detail that Preston puts into each account. You would also, I feel, need to know some detail about the conflict before reading this book. However, for sheer research, as with other books by this author, the gain in reading is how much more you learn about the details of the war and the part of women in general and these women in particular. This book, although very well-written, is dense and often hard work but well worth the effort.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comparing four experiences of the Spanish Civil War, 7 July 2004
Paul Preston is arguably the greatest British authority on the Spanish Civil War. In this work, he portrays the exploits, experiences and sufferings of four very different women who were personally involved on both sides of the war effort.
The personalities, backgrounds and political allegiances of each woman provides a stark contrast. The book covers the lives of Priscilla Scott-Ellis, of British upper-class origins, who served with Franco's forces as a nurse. An antithesis is provided by Nan Green, a lower-middle class British Communist, who enlisted as a nurse, joining her husband in the International Brigade. In addition, an out-spoken feminist, Margarita Nelken compared with the falangist, Mercedes Sanz-Bachiller, provides Spanish viewpoints of the individual experiences and consequential suffering both during and after the war.
Paul Preston's style is free-flowing, easy reading and although not engrossing, this book is certainly interesting. In spite of the differences between the four women, he is also able to draw upon and illustrate the unnerving similarities in their experiences, feelings and responses to the war.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Different perspectives on carnage, 19 Dec 2013
Writers of fiction are often accused of forcing their characters to jump through ever more fanciful hoops to satisfy a presumed need for engaging plot. The fact that reality often amplifies the unlikely to the near incredible regularly reminds any reader that considered fiction rarely overstates any issue that derives from our usually random human recklessness. Rarely, for instance, when dealing with war, does fiction place women in the front line. And equally uncommon is the recognition that women are also often in the front lines of politics, even when they might continue to be under-represented amongst the professional practitioners of the art.

And so we often need the kind of reality check that a balanced historical account can provide. Paul Preston's Doves Of War is precisely the kind of book that can provide comment on all these themes and thus bring us back to earth with an eye-opening bump.

Doves Of War presents contrasting biographies of four women who were directly involved in the hostilities of the Spanish Civil War. Priscilla Scott-Ellis is born of the English upper crust and supports the Nationalists. Nan Green is also English, but motivated by a commitment to left-wing politics. She lines up with the Republic. Mercedes Sanz-Bachiller, a Spaniard, marries into the political life of Vallolid. Margarita Nelken, Spanish-speaking and Spanish-born, but Jewish and branded a foreigner by her enemies, becomes a significant actor on the political left. And so we follow the lives of four women, two on the left and two on the right, two outsiders and two insiders, two who celebrated victory and two berated in defeat. Their stories thus contrast.

It is much to the author's credit that these lives are presented in a fair and unbiased way. Paul Preston's personal take on the history of Spain's war is well known. But in Doves Of War he consistently ducks opportunities to make points about the politics of the struggle, except when the politics are lived out in the lives of his subjects. Committed readers on either side of the argument might feel frustrated at this, but the overall result in that Doves Of War avoids polemic and lets the detail of these four women's stories demand the reader's uncomplicated attention. The first subject, for instance, was born into privilege and wealth, thus making political points easy to score. The second is very much the nineteen-thirties pro-Soviet apologist and activist, and caricature might thus beckon. The third is a long-suffering wife dragged into the limelight and the fourth is the driven polymath intellectual. In some way or other, all four could be presented as caricatures or used as vehicles to score other associated historical and political points. Aspects of all four lives could be stressed to demolish them as people or belittle their contribution and commitment. But the author always shies away from cheap shots, even consciously avoiding them, always preferring to analyse rather than judge.

What happens to these four women is the meat of Doves Of War, so this review will avoid reference to the detail of the individual stories. What the review can do, however, is note that each of these lives presents a series of events that is stranger, more heroic, more tragic, more convoluted, more complicated and much more profound than anything a writer of fiction might implausibly create to impose on a character. The twists and turns of these lives, each one pummelled by events and scarred by war leave the reader breathless just trying to keep up.

The style, however, is not easy. Paul Preston is an historian, not a sensationalist or indeed a sentimentalist, and these tales, as presented here, are more documentary than Hollywood. Their content may be stranger than fiction, but the material is considered, discussed, referenced, sourced and checked. Nothing is ever over-stated. Doves Of War displays immense scholarship and, whatever the author's obvious sympathies, he offers tremendous respect for these four differing women who, in their different ways, gave their lives to the causes they supported.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Background to the Spanish Holocust, 22 July 2013
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This review is from: Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Having heard the author lecture the opportunity to gain detail and background
was really good.The book paints a picture from an unusual aspect.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Epic fascination, 20 May 2013
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This review is from: Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Preston is our lead Spanish war historian. But he takes it a step beyond here.

This is just like a novel. Four unheard of and extraordinary women and so well-researched. I could not put it down. I just wish there were another four.

Buy. Read. Brilliant. No more to say.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard going, 16 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Didn't really enjoy this book and I can't explain why because the Spanish Civil War interests me greatly. I found the first quarter of the book about Priscilla Scott-Ellis, an uppercrust woman with time on her hands, rather sycophantic yet I finished the chapter with an intense dislike for a woman I will never know. In fact and perhaps unfairly I didn't care for any of the four women.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doves of War, 3 Aug 2010
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Brenda M. Watkins (england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Excellent reading. Took the book on holiday and couldn't put it down.
thoroughly recommended
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars engrossing, 21 Feb 2008
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Rinconete (Córdoba, Spain) - See all my reviews
I read this book a few years ago and found it brilliant. I cannot understand how the previous reader could give it only three stars.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 14 Mar 2013
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These women had a fascinating life. They also had quite a raunchy one, this is a great read. They don't make em like that any more
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Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War
Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War by Paul Preston (Paperback - 9 April 2010)
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