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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 7 March 2013
Always been interested in the psyche of war reporters but this book takes you far deeper into Gellhorn's long life. She was always angry when professionally linked to her once husband Ernest Hemmingway - and if you've seen the film and wondered why such animosity grew in her - then read this and you'll find out the real story behind their relationship.

The film with Nicole Kidman covers a very short era of her long life - this goes into her early years and how when the Spanish Civil War started and she determined to go, the person (unlike as played in the film) who arrives is far from the naive green reporter on her first mission. The description of her going to Paris when young - without support and working and playing hard - her discipline and (for me one of the best bits) of her returning back to America to report on the depression and visiting deprived places in the latest Paris Fashions - not because she was trying to be 'posh' but because her European friends had clubbed round and the only cheap gear she could obtain were rejected caste offs from the latest Paris show - this book is full of incidents and how she became the most respected woman war journalist of her era and is still held as the benchmark today.
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I have been a Martha Gellhorn fan since I found a copy of Travels With Myself and Another on the shelf at Hatchard's in London in 1983. I had never heard of Gellhorn, but was immediately taken with her no-nonsense reporter's style of writing. I scooped up all her non-fiction and some of her fiction. After reading both of Carl Rollyson's bios of her (one written before she died, against her wishes, the other right after her death), I thought I knew a little about Gellhorn. After reading Moorehead's bio, I found out just how little.
This is likely to be the standard text on Gellhorn's life. It is complete, readable, and doesn't pull any punches. You get Gellhorn, warts and all, and there are plenty of warts. There was a lot of information here that I hadn't known, and wouldn't have guessed. It may even be too much information. I think I may know more about Gellhorn now than I really wanted to.
Martha Gellhorn was a terrific war reporter, a great non-fiction writer, a competent author of fiction, and a fascinating person. Moorehead's biography captures all that and is well worth your time.
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on 2 January 2015
I really enjoyed this life story because of the character of Martha Gellhorn (involved with Ernest Hemingway; her affair with Laurance Rockefeller). She did some very interesting things - war reporting, journalism, publishing, writing - & knew & met a lot of fascinating people. It wasn't boring although quite long. In fact quite touching. See also my reviews of Antony Beevor's Spanish Civil War & Amanda Vaill's Hotel Florida elsewhere on my Profile page.
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VINE VOICEon 11 January 2008
Martha Gellhorn was a caricature of the spunky feminist war correspondent. A legendary adventuress who was a match for Hemingway, a seducer of generals, a confidante of Eleanor Roosevelt, her name evokes grit, glamour and style. She is one of those few who can claim to have had a ringside view of the 20th century, and she was deservedly a feminist icon and foreign correspondent's pin-up. But as this excellent biography shows, underneath it all, Gellhorn was all too human.

This close-up of her life shows her to have been by turns selfish, vulnerable, catty, naive, a poor mother and an unenthusiastic sexual partner. Easily bored, she was also fiercely competitive, witty, spirited and absolutely no-nonsense. She had enough gusto to turn a youthful wander overseas into a life of adventure, recorded in magazine articles which turned her into a household name. And when outraged, as she was by injustice in war and the horror she saw at Dachau, she was a whirlwind of determination and indignation.

Caroline Moorehead has succeeded in getting to know her subject thoroughly, turning the myths inside out and showing us the real Martha Gellhorn. The image that is left is of a rather complex and lonely figure, isolated by her own willfulness. Moorehead has done a fine job: I loved this biography, but I'm not sure I could have loved Martha Gellhorn.
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on 21 August 2014
Quality research and writing on an extraordinary woman. Martha Gelhorn seems to have been the first woman journalist who looked at individuals and interviewed them, then wrote about them. Boswell, Dickens and Twain had featured ordinary individuals in their writings bit for a woman even to be a journalist at the time, America's Dust Bowl days", was highly unusual and probably unique.
I gave this 4 stars as a personal reaction to the fact that in terms of poverty and war, so little has changed in 90 years. I've read the Old Testament, Greek, Roman and Norse history and legends.
Sadly, it's always been the same and I fear it always will.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 November 2011
A thoughtful, insightful and beautifully-written biography of one of the first leading female war correspondents, who also longed to be a great novelist. All writers are complex people but Martha Gellhorn was a seething mass of contradictions. She thought of herself as 'a young man' and as 'one of the boys' but fretted about her figure as much as any Hollywood star, had several face lifts and adored designer clothes. She was an accurate (apart from about the Arab/Israeli conflict), fearless war reporter, determined to record 'the truth' and how war affected average civilians, but found entering another person's psyche in fiction very hard, and despite her wish to write a really fine book, wasn't averse to selling 'bilgers' (tripey romantic stories) to magazines to earn money. She longed to be loved, to have a happy relationship and to rear a child who she could feed, educate and tell 'fine jokes' to, but her two marriages and several relationships (including, most poignantly, one with a Jewish-American doctor who may have been the only man she really loved) foundered on her refusal to make any sacrifices in her own life, and her experience adopting an Italian war orphan was predominantly disastrous, though their early years together were happy and they made up towards the end of Martha's life. She had a wonderful gift for friendship, and by the end of her life had gathered round her a devoted circle of friends, many of whom she was extremely kind to, but she could also be outstandingly selfish - I blanched at her dismissal of Sybille Bedford from her group of friends with the words 'Sybille, you are too boring' (particularly when Bedford is far the stronger novelist!) and at some of her behaviour to friends that she went on holiday with.

Moorehead records all Gellhorn's contradictory characteristics with scrupulous honesty, and tells the story of her life in fascinating detail. And what a life it was! Following a fairly happy childhood with progressive parents in St Louis and a brief and unhappy stint at university, Martha escaped to Paris where she became the mistress of Bertrand de Jouvenel (Colette's stepson and former lover) and witnessed the attempts to keep peace in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. When the relationship with the married Bertrand foundered, she came back to America and was in time to work for the Roosevelts during the Great Depression. She went out to cover the Spanish Civil War with Ernest Hemingway, who became her lover and during World War II her husband (Moorehead writes particularly well about Hemingway) - when the marriage began to hit difficulties in the mid-1940s, Martha returned to Europe where she was in time to cover the end of World War II, and to have an affair with the prominent American General James 'Slim Jim' Gavin. Following World War II and her divorce she moved from Mexico to Italy to London to Kenya and other African countries; Moorehead writes well about her life and travels in all these places. In old age, Martha settled in London and Wales, where she discovered a fondness for cats, and gathered around her a group of younger friends who she called 'the chaps'. It was an old age spent with dignity, and she died with dignity too, committing suicide in her 80s when she realized that she would soon die of cancer and go nearly blind.

While Martha Gellhorn may not come across as a straightforwardly 'nice' woman from this book, she is usually great company, and Moorehead's writing about her life and the times in which she lived always interesting. One leaves the book with mixed feelings about Gellhorn both as a woman and writer, but certainly admiring a lot about her, particularly her courage.
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on 23 November 2011
This is the definitive Gellhorn biography. It's a well-written, comprehensive story of one of journalism's most interesting figures. I've read this a few times in hardcover and have now bought it in Kindle as it's a book I'll come back to again and again. For anyone interested in Gellhorn and looking to buy a biography, this is far superior to Carl Rollyson's efforts.
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on 12 January 2016
I bought this after watching a Nicole Kidman film on Martha Gellhorn. It is a good read and should be read by people who have a love for life and freedom. You do end up feeling sorry for her and the author does well not to put her on too high a pedestal.
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on 2 March 2015
Excellent book. Fascinating story of an extraordinary woman. Normally wary of biographies as being rather dry but it would be difficult to make this lady's life sound dull.
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VINE VOICEon 3 September 2010
A page turner, I couldn't put this down. Her earlier life certainly seems to interest the author a little more than her later life, but I would be surprised if the reader wouldn't feel short changed if the weightings were reversed. Martha Gellhorn was a fascinating woman who lived a fascinating life, I can't imagine anyone would find her tales boring. I recommend you buy this along with her short stories of nightmare travels (if you haven't already read these of course). A holiday read if ever there was one.

And for those who do not know who Gellhorn was - trail blazing female front line reporter. Once married to Hemmingway. Much travelled. A really quite excellent journalist who burned brightly at a time when there were so many other bright lights around to obscure the view. Hard on others, hard also on herself. Some might call her a feminist, but her politics seem more skewed towards how people should be than women, indeed, she doesn't seem to have been much bothered by women's rights at all. Gellhorn was to the frontline written word as Capra was to photo-journalism - although perhaps she would have disagreed with that.
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