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Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  416 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
The first major biography of legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn casts "a vivid spotlight on one of the most undercelebrated women of the 20th century" (Entertainment Weekly)

Martha Gellhorn's heroic career as a reporter brought her to the front lines of virtually every significant international conflict between the Spanish Civil War and the end of the cold war; her
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Holt Paperbacks (first published September 25th 2003)
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Janis Mckay
Aug 19, 2012 Janis Mckay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Martha Gellhorn, one of the best war correspondents this country has ever seen. She witnessed almost every major international conflict from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam. How is it that I am only just learning about her now? This biography is, in my opinion, ruthlessly fair. She is not pictured as a saint, far from it. Like many driven and talented people who focus intently on one thing, she sometimes exhibits a callous disregard for the feelings of others, even those closest to her. She has ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Sande rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew this amazing woman existed!!! Leading the life of a war correspondent from the 1920s all the way up to the 1990s inspiring generations of women to take their talent and view point into war zones of today and the past 30 years. A real eye opener for me and I wish it hadn't taken an HBO movie which just focused on 5 years of her amazing life for me to discover her. Moorehead had incomparable access to all of Gellhorn's papers and the collection of her letters written over six decades to f ...more
Aug 25, 2012 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martha Gellhorn, journalist, writer and world traveler, is one of the most interesting women of the 20th Century. She was a good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt (and stayed in the White House) and rubbed elbows with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Adalai Stevenson, and H.G. Wells among others as well as being Ernest Hemingway's third wife. She lived the life of a liberated woman long before the women's liberation movement.

Moorehead's biography draws heavily on written records and Martha's massive nu
Oct 04, 2013 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written, I found this to be informative along with personal. This author tells a consistent story of Martha Gellhorn's life. I had watched a new movie about Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, and I was so intrigued about this woman that I started looking for her in books. What I found is amazing. This woman's life and work should be taught in schools.
From a young age Martha Gellhorn was strong and independent. She relied on her self for getting where she wanted to go. One of the
Susan Albert
Remarkable woman, excellent biography: fair, balanced, detailed, well-written. Scholars might wish for a more extensive documentation, but there are enough references to take a curious reader more deeply into Gellhorn's life and letters (also collected by the biographer in Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn). This is on my "Roosevelt Research" shelf because Gellhorn was a colleague and friend of Lorena Hickok and a friend of ER. (There's a funny story about ER on p. 81.)
Aug 30, 2016 Mimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather amazing life--Gellman was a war reporter for decades, from WW1 through Vietnam, as well as a writer of fiction. And, btw, married to Hemingway for only 5 of those years.

Side note: What I find odd, and somewhat disturbing, in reading about Hemingway and his wives (just one to go--Mary) is how casually they all leave their children with nannies or caretakers, often for weeks or months at a time. The adult children report that this was as distressing as one might think.
Nov 17, 2012 Fiona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Excellent biography of an extraordinary woman.
Enjoyable read about the life and non-life of a very alive lady, Ernest Hemingway's third wife. How she survived it all is a mystery. It will take you through much of the 20th century's more interesting events, and leave you a bit breathless from time to time. There is also a most satisfactory amount of name-dropping which is presumably due to the author rather than the subject, although I do not wish to be mean. Some will find this of lively interest...
May 30, 2017 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gellhorn was both a truly terrible and truly magnificent person. Her career is something to be admired. Her personal life, not so much. Very well-written and informative. Recommend.
Jun 07, 2017 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read a biography to provide inspiration and insight into a life well lived. This one did not disappoint. This story about Martha Gellhorn, an accomplished news reporter and writer is well worth the time to read.
Mary Morgan
Feb 20, 2015 Mary Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a journalist who grew up in the internet age, I find it extraordinary to read about the lives of genuine correspondents - sent to be real witnesses, to document history, and to send back their despatches to people far away who would otherwise be in the dark.

I have such admiration for Martha's interest in people rather than politics and military movements, and (even though I work for the BBC, the home of balanced and objective reporting) her upfront dismissal of "all that objectivity shit". T
Daniel Etherington
Gellhorn certainly had a remarkable life, having reported from various hotspots in 20th century global history including the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and even the Vietnam War, and this biography covers it all. Though in places there is simply too much detail from the less interesting aspects of her - notably quotes from letters that highlight a high level of vanity and self-obsession. Her obsessions with righting wrongs in the world is far richer subject than her self-regard.

Richard Wise
Jul 25, 2012 Richard Wise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A very well written fair minded biography of an important 20th Century writer. An easy person to dislike, Gellhorn was known principally as Hemingway's third wife. She was, in fact, quite a good writer of fiction. I particularly like a short story called The Rains in Africa.

Did she or did she not journey to Key West to find and introduce herself to a writer she admired. Did she or did she not do her best to seduce the famous writer away from his second wife? Gellhorn always claimed that she did
Nancy Petralia
I can't finish this book.

I found the beginning, about Gellhorn's youth and early adulthood interesting. She was quite the free spirit, but I think that was not completely unusual for the time. Once she got involved with Hemingway the story bogs down. There's too much name dropping, mostly of people you don't know who might or might not have been important at the time. But they aren't given any life so you just have to guess. I don't really care what they ate or drank or what parties they went to
May 04, 2010 Tara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first got interested in Martha Gellhorn back in the 80s, after reading a magazine interview - then I discovered, and loved, her novel Liana which is like a forerunner to Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea. It was only later that I learned of Gellhorn's marriage to Hemingway, unlike some other readers. This is a very detailed and fair-minded biography, and my only quibble really was with Gellhorn herself - though admirable, she wasn't easy to warm to so I felt a bit detached from her at times. Still ...more
I first became interested in Martha Gellhorn after reading The Hemingway Women by Bernice Kert, in which she seemed to me to be the most interesting of Hemingway's wives. She was wife number three. Gellhorn was a novelist and journalist who became a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, WWII and Vietnam. Her need to live an unconventional life for a woman in her era and her determination and utter fearlessness in going by herself to foreign countries and wars is a fascinating story.
Dena Weigel Bell
Great book. I love biographies, except for the fact that they always have the same ending. Gellhorn was a journalist who was at the front lines of six wars and traveled extensively during the Great Depression to shed light on the ordinary people suffering unimaginable conditions. She was one of the first reporters to arrive at the Dachau concentration camp after its liberation from the Nazis and was changed by the experience forever. Considered a better reporter than Hemingway (she was his third ...more
Carolyn Roberts
Jan 23, 2016 Carolyn Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martha Gellhorn sounds like a fascinating woman - not someone I would have necessarily wanted to be friends with, but I bet she would been a great conversationalist. She was a journalist reporting from war zones long before Martin Bell bought his first white suit, and at a time when the army was not thrilled by the idea of having women on the front lines. This biography is thorough, though sometimes inconsistent, but I really enjoyed it. I'm going to read Martha's book Nobody Knows the Trouble I ...more
Rowena Williamson
This is a remarkable biography of one of the most remarkable women of the 20th Century. Beginning with the Spanish Civil War, she was a correspondent in later wars. Gellhorn certainly had some very unlikeable traits, but she wrote well and observantly about the people caught up in war's tragedies. She wrote about The Great Depression and novels.
She also wrote hilariously about people and her own difficulties in such books as Travels With Myself and Others.
I highly recommend this book, as well a
I love this book. When a biography is well-written the reader not only receives insights into the subject but also learns history along the way. The author, Caroline Moorehead, has achieved both goals. I'm especially grateful to have met Martha Gellhorn through this book, and to have spent the last couple of weeks with her. If you like biographies and discovering important/influential women who you've probably never heard of ... I highly recommend this book. And I look forward to now reading som ...more
Frances Johnson
Jun 20, 2012 Frances Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gellhorn is a fascinating person who deserves more recognition than having been a former Hemingway wife. She was a fierce champion of the underdog and used her considerable skills to write about the people, the civilians who suffered during various conflicts. Her personal life was somewhat sad and perhaps unfullfilling but she managed to live it exactly as she wanted.The book is well written and makes me want to read more books by its author, Caroline Moorehead. I highly recommend this book.
Annie  Schoening
Dec 01, 2012 Annie Schoening rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This broad had a LIFE. Just an incredible book -- everything biography should be. Nora Ephron wrote a play about her feud with Mary McCarthy, which was a DELIGHT. Seriously wish I'd been around in those days.

Gellhorn is the stuff of journalism legend (former ex Mrs. Hemingway), but Moorehead really dives into her "personal" life too. It's kind of a cautionary tale of workaholism and pride... but I might be projecting.
Julie Marr
Oct 21, 2012 Julie Marr rated it liked it
This densely packed biography reads like a history of the twentieth century. Gellhorn was an interesting and complex woman; a writer compelled to report on the world as she sees it, however unpopular that was. While generally interesting, I did find it occasionally repetitive and tiresome, and it took me quite some time to get into it. All in all, I'm glad I persisted with it, but I'm also glad that I'm finally finished it.
May 21, 2014 Suzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my reading obsessions turned into a great discovery: Martha Gellhorn. A writer from the '30's, a feminist, individualist and one hell of a war correspondent who rode out with all the big boys and asked for no quarter. Married three times, including 5 years to Hemingway, she had numerous lovers, many adventures and travels. She lived and died on her own terms. Admiration would not be quite true, but certainly respect. We'll written and captivating; a terrific biography.
Teri Cooper
Jan 15, 2012 Teri Cooper rated it liked it
An honest and detailed bio about the fascinating pioneering female journalist Martha Gelhorn, who not only covered the Spanish civil war and flew in a Lancaster Bomber raid over Germany, but also married Ernest Hemminway! Quite a few good reasons to write a biography about her! The book reveals her to be a hard, unsentimental woman who was more driven by getting the story than by searching for personal happiness. A top read.
Janis Mills
Dec 15, 2012 Janis Mills rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating woman. She had the balls to sneak on a hospital ship and land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. She snared Hemingway away from his wife and lived to regret it. Adopted a child after she got rid of the UC and Seemed to struggle with all relationships that tied her down. She had a love him/leave him relationship with all others husband or child. Great story about a woman who would not bond to anyone.
Oct 14, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martha Gellhorn is an immensely inspiring female heroine whom I admire; if you're a bit of a coward (like myself) but also fantasize about being a war reporter or belonging to a subversive political group (like me), this book offers a proxy opportunity to explore and encourage possibility. It's pretty fun to read although occasionally fusty. But no problemo, doesn't detract!
Sep 05, 2013 Susana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating account of a remarkable woman who moved in literary and political circle through the 20th cent. It is also a great read concerning the creative process and her struggles for solitude and companionship, a life lived with a roar. Gelhorn is both sympathetic and flawed and thoroughly human,
Feb 02, 2013 Greta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put down this biography of Martha Gellhorn, a reporter who went to cover the Spanish Civil War in her twenties, at a time when women were usually relegated to writing fashion pieces. She was portrayed as a complex character — often depressed and unhappy with her lot. But I greatly admire her footlooseness and her insistence in telling the stories of civilians affected by war.
Lorraine Herbon
Feb 19, 2016 Lorraine Herbon rated it did not like it
A disappointment! I couldn't get much further than the third chapter before I gave this up. Either this author meant to be clever, or the real Gellhorn was not a very nice person. Either way, the combination of Gellhorn's unpleasant character and the author's ridiculous word play made this book unreadable for me.
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Caroline Moorehead has written columns on human rights first for The Times and then for the Independent (1980-91) and has made a series of TV programmes on human rights for the BBC (1990-2000). She has also written the history of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1998) and has helped to set up a Legal Advice Centre for refugees in Cairo, where she has started schools and a nursery.
More about Caroline Moorehead...

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