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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He weeps by the side of the ocean, He weeps on the top of the hill; He purchases pancakes and lotion, And chocolate… ,
    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,