Justin Marozzi

Precious Compost

The Letters of Martha Gellhorn


Chatto & Windus 510pp £30 order from our bookshop

‘It always horrifies me to realize that people keep letters,’ the American writer Martha Gellhorn told one of her legion of correspondents in her later years. Horrifying for her, perhaps, but it is not difficult to see why anyone would keep – and treasure – a letter signed ‘Martha’, ‘Marty’, ‘M’, or simply ‘Gellhorn’, the woman who reported on every major twentieth-century conflict from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam. Five hundred pages of the letters, sympathetically edited by her biographer Caroline Moorehead in this splendidly readable volume, reveal her to be as lively, lucid, challenging, acerbic and compelling a letter-writer as she was a war correspondent, novelist and travel writer.

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