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The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II

Review

The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II

In THE CORRESPONDENTS, noted author Judith Mackrell has assembled and intertwined the reporting careers of six intrepid females who wrote their truths and made their mark in the chaos and carnage of World War II.

Two of the women highlighted here were already well known --- Lee Miller was a fashion photographer, and Martha Gelhorn was married to widely acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway --- at the war’s early rumblings. The others --- Virginia Cowles, Clare Hollingworth, Helen Kirkpatrick and Sigrid Schultz --- were pursuing journalistic careers in the frustrating minor leagues to which women were generally confined in that era. Each had an instinct for ferreting out relevant information, and all were in danger throughout much of the war years. Still, they refused to hold back what they knew when they believed the world should know about it.

"Mackrell...has organized this chronology with scholarly intensity. She brings every moment to life..."

Cowles befriended young Unity Mitford, who was an entertaining friend to Hitler when his plans for war were reaching a boiling point. Unity confided that Hitler couldn’t stand to be bored, leaving Cowles with the disquieting sense that the fate of the world rested on “the ennui of one man.” Hollingworth’s view of the war began with her presence in Poland during its initial invasion, an experience that toughened her outwardly and increased her inner determination and detachment. Kirkpatrick covered the early phase of the Battle of Britain, enjoined to present the horrific sights she observed in a positive light to give readers hope and heart.

Miller’s writings and photographs captured the human devastation: “the child’s doll, flung onto a pile of rubble, its arms stuck up in a poignant parody of surrender.” Gelhorn visited Bergen-Belsen at the war’s end, hearing stories from women “who had lived with death too long.” Schultz experienced perhaps the most perilous assignments because she had hidden the fact of her Jewishness. Yet her contacts and language proficiency gave her access to Goebbels, Göring and other high-ups in the Nazi pantheon of power.

Mackrell, whose celebrated works on women’s accomplishments include BLOOMSBURY BALLERINA and FLAPPERS, has organized this chronology with scholarly intensity. She brings every moment to life, serving up the women’s views of world war on all fronts --- from Europe to Africa and Asia, and later Vietnam --- with sizzling realism. The book concludes with a satisfying epilogue to give readers an enlightening look at the later lives of these six courageous correspondents.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on November 5, 2021

The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II
by Judith Mackrell

  • Publication Date: November 2, 2021
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385547668
  • ISBN-13: 9780385547666