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Martha Gellhorn: A Life

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  78 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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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  503 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Czarny Pies
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Czarny by: Fiona
Shelves: american-history
From ten kilometres away on a foggy day, one could have easily seen that Martha Gellhorn , one of the great journalists of her age, was also an appalling tramp. In her magnificently researched biography Caroline Moorehead spares the reader none of the sordid details. Having a taste for married lovers, Gellhorn destroyed at least two marriages. She had, at a minimum, four abortions. She was unpleasant with her step children and if we can accept the insinuations of her biographer, her sadistic par ...more
Mikey B.
This is a very moving and passionate biography of an independent 20th century woman. Martha Gellhorn was a writer of both fiction and non-fiction – and much more successful as a journalist. She wrote constantly and intimately to family, friends, and lovers. She was a compulsive traveler and lived in many different parts of the world – France, England, Kenya, Cuba, and Mexico. Even though she grew up in St. Louis, U.S. she rejected her home country and only returned for visits with her family, es ...more
Laurie Notaro
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved loved loved it.
Janis Mckay
Aug 19, 2012 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 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
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Excellent biography of an extraordinary woman.
Mary Morgan
Feb 20, 2015 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
Janis Mills
Dec 15, 2012 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.
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...
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading this bio, I would, one minute, admire and respect Martha Gellhorn and a few pages later, become frustrated and disappointed in her. This probably means only that Caroline Moorehead did an excellent job of telling Gellhorn’s story...the good and the bad, a complex human story. Gellhorn, from St. Louis originally, became a reporter of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, WWII in the 40s, and even Vietnam in the 60s & 70s, fighting preconceptions, prejudices, bureaucracy and bombs. ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Martha Gellhorn was a very unusual woman. A war correspondent and writer, who started her career during the Spanish Civil War. I admired her tenacity for getting the story and also for her telling the story of the underdog and trying to obtain justice for the oppressed.

That said, I found Martha a rather unlikeable person. She was very vain (she had facelifts in her 80's!) and used her looks to get access to war zones and people and places to report her stories. She had no compunction about havin
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.

Aug 25, 2012 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 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.)
Julie Cohen
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.
Aug 30, 2016 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.
Ian Williams
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Martha Gellhorn is my heroine. As a journalist, she covered everything from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s right up to the American invasion of Panama in the eighties. She cut through the crap and got to the core of the issue and was unflinching in what she said. She thought that the American invasion of Vietnam was wrong and said so. America banned her from entering Vietnam as a result. She also took part in the D-Day invasion.

She refused to believe in "that objectivity crap" and wrote wha
Delta Willis
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary biography of a journalist who became the only female reporter at Normandy beach, and like me, fell in love with Africa, returning to make a home here. This book inspired me to watch again the HBO movie Hemingway & Gellhorn with Nicole Kidman playing the war correspondent having hot sex with Hemingway in a hotel as the ceiling of the bedroom rained on them from direct hits. This biography suggests Gellhorn did not enjoy sex and avoided such tumbles with Hemingway but warmed u ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was not familiar with Martha Gellhorn until I read by chance "Travels With Myself and Another,"and much to my delight I liked it greatly. I seldom buy books but when I saw her biography, I believed it might be good, so I purchased it to help with a convalescence coming my way. The beginning of this bio was fairly interesting and her development into a correspondent quite informative, but then! Then it took a dive into the total abyss of the most trivial and uninspiring trivia and boring detail ...more
Desiree Jackson
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Caroline Moorehead did an excellent job of detailing Gellhorn's life, without prejudice. I went through a range of emotions about Gellhorn that started with admiration and ended with antipathy. Moorehead did not hold back the facts about Gellhorn, letting the reader form their own opinion. I did find it strange that Hemingway's death was not mentioned in the manner of Gellhorn's reaction. Perhaps she never wrote to anyone about her feelings about his suicide in 1961, but it seemed unlikely given ...more
Nicole G.
I found this biography from the source material for Beautiful Exiles, and was intrigued. I didn't know much about Martha Gellhorn prior to reading that book and wanted to know more.

This is a thoroughly researched biography, penned by a woman whose mother was close friends with Martha. Lots of primary source materials, such as letters, were used.

Martha Gellhorn was a fascinating woman, but also maddening. Intrepid, fearless, but also cold and distant. It's obvious she didn't quite think through
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who reads biographies of obscure personalities? I recommend this book, but I wonder who’s in the audience. Gellhorn is the famous person most of us have never heard of, yet as a war correspondent and journalist, she covered the major events of the 20th century. She led an incredibly interesting life, travelling all over the world, and knew many of the leading figures of the day. Luckily, Gellhorn was a letter-writer, so Moorhead had a lot of material to work with and brings her alive with novel- ...more
Louise Muddle
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Complicated and difficult woman if this is a fair biography. Inspirational to many journalists i know but a hard woman to warm to which is perhaps how the author (who knew her) felt? She picked up animals, friends, lovers and a son and then dropped them, sometimes with devasting effect. Fascinating history though and I admire her courage particularly at the end. Will try Gellhorn's own work although perhaps not the fiction.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The amazing and fearless life of war reporter Martha Gellhorn is relayed in this book. She takes risks where others would not and of course was 2nd wife to Ernest Hemingway. After their divorce she preferred not to talk about him. Even in her 80s she was traveling around the world until in 1998 she took her own life.
Peggy Donahue
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Remarkable Woman

Though I started the book to learn more about her relationship with "He Who Shall Not Be Named" - he was an insignificant part of her rich and long life. Tough, sometimes unlikable, but always interesting, Martha deserved the friends who hung with her at the end. May I be so lucky.
Celia Kaltenbach-crotteau
I liked the book, but its subject - not! I found her egotistical, a woman I would not want for a friend of relative, and I felt sorry for her adopted son. Enough said.
May 30, 2017 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.
Richard Wise
Jul 25, 2012 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
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Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France; A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France; and Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An acclaimed biographer, Moorehead has also written for the New York Review ...more
“Horribly aware of what was happening, conscious, as she had never been before, that it was possible both to love her mother more than anyone in life and yet be driven mad by her presence,” 1 likes
“Martha had been struck by a line in a Doris Lessing novel—“I don’t enjoy pleasure”—and decided that what she enjoyed in life were surprises and work. “But it’s alarming,” she wrote to Teecher, “to grow less and less gregarious. I can hardly bear social occasions; I feel as if I’d written the script long ago.” While” 1 likes
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