I’ve had The Novellas of Martha Gellhorn sitting on my shelf for a while now, and seeing talk of the Hemingway and Gellhorn TV movie/series prompted me to decide to take a break from new releases and turn to this instead. (Did I see the TV movie? No. While my reading tastes may be literary, my TV tastes are decidedly lowbrow.)
I loved these stories. Gellhorn combines the prickly, weary sensibility of Dorothy Parker with the depth of character of Katherine Mansfield to give us stories about people – people who can’t catch a break, people who try their hardest, people who do their best, people who destroy everything around them, people who are happy, people who are crazy, people who are poor and people who are rich.
The stories range from America to Africa, from the Depression to the 60′s and Gellhorn brings a journalist’s eye to her characters, often dropping the reader into their lives and then whisking them out again. There’s a theme here of tiredness and resignation, interspersed with moments of radiant joy.
Above all Gellhorn’s interested in relationships, moments of love – parental, romantic, familial – as well as domination, submission and darker, trickier societal relationships (there’s a thread of casual racism through many of the stories, particularly those set in Africa).
I often find short stories frustrating but these are (as the title suggests) longer than your usual short story and I found them a really easy length to read. Short enough to sustain interest consistently but long enough to pull the reader in and develop a lasting impression.
Gellhorn is bloody fantastic. I can’t wait to read more.