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Martha Gellhorn: A Life

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  350 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Martha Gellhorn's reporting tracks many of the flashpoints of the 20th century: witnessing the Depression in a state of righteous fury, risking her life in the Spanish Civil War, and in the Second World War covering the fall of Czechoslovakia and the Normandy Landings, the liberation of Dachau and the Nuremberg Trials. She reported from Vietnam and Israel; and at the age o ...more
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published September 25th 2003 by Chatto & Windus
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Janis Mckay
Sep 29, 2014 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
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
Sep 05, 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
Sep 13, 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
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.)
Mary Morgan
Feb 20, 2015 Mary Morgan rated it really liked it
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
Strong willed, clear headed and driven woman. An inspiration.
Nov 17, 2012 Fiona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Excellent biography of an extraordinary woman.
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
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.

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.
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
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
Oct 08, 2015 Patricia rated it really liked it
Inspiring to see what an independent minded woman could do in such a male dominated role as war correspondent. Perhaps you can't have it all - but she did pretty well with what she chose to do. Egoistic - maybe. But so are many successful writers and artists. An insight into an era.
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
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. In life, Gellhorn was known principally as Hemingway's third wife. 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 not and the biographer dutifully reports her statements as well as presenting the particulars of the situation as it worked itself
Kathleen Hanes
Never heard of this book and found it in a Naples library sale for $1.00. Great read, fascinating women. Re-read in spring of 2012 and still liked it very much. So much about the 20th century.
Jul 30, 2014 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much everything you could want in a biography. Captured the complexity of Gellhorn's personality, life and work. Alternating between inspiring and sad, funny and frightening.
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.
May 17, 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
Mar 10, 2015 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hemingways third wife and an excellent journalist and writer in her own right.
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
Oct 29, 2015 Pattie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Factual, life of gutsy female journalist drawn to war, high level glamorous men and women, restless, easily bored, critical of self, guilty, unfulfilled, tragic.
May 25, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every young woman should read this book. So should every journalist.
Frances Johnson
Aug 06, 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.
Roger Boyle
Dec 09, 2015 Roger Boyle rated it liked it
This was very enjoyable - well written and a fascinating subject at its centre.

I really don't think I would have liked this lady very much, even if we would have voted the same way on everything.

Why not more stars? There was just too much to say about her and I ran out of stamina. Others would disagree.
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
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.
Teri Cooper
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.
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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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