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Summary and book reviews of The Correspondents by Judith Mackrell

The Correspondents

Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II

by Judith Mackrell

The Correspondents by Judith  Mackrell X
The Correspondents by Judith  Mackrell
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  • Published:
    Nov 2021, 464 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

The riveting, untold history of a group of heroic women reporters who revolutionized the narrative of World War II - from Martha Gellhorn, who out-scooped her husband, Ernest Hemingway, to Lee Miller, a Vogue cover model turned war correspondent.

On the front lines of the Second World War, a contingent of female journalists were bravely waging their own battle. Barred from combat zones and faced with entrenched prejudice and bureaucratic restrictions, these women were forced to fight for the right to work on equal terms with men.

The Correspondents follows six remarkable women as their lives and careers intertwined: Martha Gellhorn, who got the scoop on Ernest Hemingway on D-Day by traveling to Normandy as a stowaway on a Red Cross ship; Lee Miller, who went from being a Vogue cover model to the magazine's official war correspondent; Sigrid Schultz, who hid her Jewish identity and risked her life by reporting on the Nazi regime; Virginia Cowles, a "society girl columnist" turned combat reporter; Clare Hollingworth, the first English journalist to break the news of World War II; and Helen Kirkpatrick, the first woman to report from an Allied war zone with equal privileges to men.

From chasing down sources and narrowly dodging gunfire to conducting tumultuous love affairs and socializing with luminaries like Eleanor Roosevelt, Picasso, and Man Ray, these six women are captured in all their complexity. With her gripping, intimate, and nuanced portrait, Judith Mackrell celebrates these courageous reporters who risked their lives for the scoop.

Chapter One
Berlin, 1936

"I want to give readers all the dope there is" - Sigrid Schultz

In the autumn of 1936, Sigrid Schultz was starting to feel like a stranger in her own city. Less than a decade ago, the Berlin she'd known and loved had been crackling with wit, colour, deviance and dissent. Painted boys with nipped-in waists had sauntered through the stylish crowds along Kurfürstendamm; girls in suits and monocles had drunk cocktails at the Eldorado ballroom. Satire—the city's native genius—had flourished in cabarets and bars, and, as a very dazzled young William Shirer had noted, Weimar Berlin had felt like "a wild open city full of crazy poets and homosexuals," a place for adventure and self-reinvention.2 It had been a city of violence, too—scarred by Germany's recent defeat in the 1914–18 war, rocked by political battles within the newly democratic Reichstag and growling with a savage underbelly of poverty, drugs and prostitution. Yet, to an ambitious ...

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BookBrowse Review


In addition to a fascinating portrait of these six journalists, The Correspondents makes an excellent historical narrative. I found the author's portrayal of Hitler's rise to power particularly absorbing, and her cinematic descriptions of the war zones are absolutely gripping. The book reads at times like an action-adventure novel, and is quite the page-turner in spite of being a nonfiction account of a well-documented conflict. I find it amazing that although I've read many books about WWII, I keep discovering new ones that add an interesting facet to my understanding. The Correspondents does just that...continued

Full Review (894 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

New York Journal of Books
A powerful narrative of WWII news, journalistic ethics, and women's achievements in the face of daunting odds...This is an important book.

New York Times
Just as women are so often written out of war, so it seems are the female correspondents. Mackrell corrects this omission admirably with stories of six of the best...[she] has done us all a great service by assembling their own fascinating stories. At first I wished she had included more of their work, but perhaps they are better served by leaving us wanting to go off and read firsthand how women see war.

The Spectator (UK)
Powerful and engaging...The history of the second world war has largely been told by, for and about men. The story of these six correspondents covering the battle zones of Europe and North Africa stands as an important corrective...They were not just reporters; they were also pioneers, and Judith Mackrell has done them proud.

The Mail on Sunday (UK)
In this hugely entertaining and informative book, Judith Mackrell tells the stories of six intrepid women who demanded the right to risk their lives reporting from the front line...Both thoughtful and edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

In this dazzling, insightful, engrossing, and multifaceted group biography, Mackrell reveals the enormous physical, emotional, and professional obstacles each woman encountered and the astonishing ingenuity each employed to confront and overcome those challenges.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[An] immersive and revealing group biography...Secondary characters including Ernest Hemingway, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Clare Boothe Luce make entertaining appearances, and Mackrell lucidly sketches military and political matters. The result is a rousing portrait of women who not only reported on history, but made it themselves.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[A]n exhilarating read packed with emotion and genuine humanity. A vivid portrayal of six remarkable women who made history reporting on World War II.

Library Journal (starred review)
[A] rich and evocative history...Based on diaries, journals, and private papers, this title complements works such as The Women with Silver Wings, by Katherine Sharp Landdeck. A must-read for those interested in women's history and the Second World War

Author Blurb Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls
A vivid portrait of the women whose clear-eyed reporting brought home the tragedy and heroism of one of history's most pivotal conflicts. We owe these journalists a great debt.

Author Blurb Keith O'Brien, New York Times bestselling author of Fly Girls
Definitive, deeply researched, and beautifully told, The Correspondents tells the story of women at war—and reminds us how a few brave souls can blaze a trail and change the world.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Spanish Civil War

Propaganda poster reading Help Spain designed to attract volunteers to the Republican causeSeveral of the women highlighted in Judith Mackrell's The Correspondents started their journalistic careers covering the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Spain had been in political turmoil for many years before the war; while the country was still officially a monarchy, a 1923 coup had placed Miguel Primo de Rivera in charge of the nation, transforming it into a military dictatorship. He had the initial support of the populace, but when the economic condition of most of Spain's citizens worsened due to corruption and mismanagement, he was forced to step down. King Alfonso XIII (who had actually supported Rivera) agreed to hold a referendum, with the end result being that voters overwhelmingly chose to abolish the monarchy in favor of a ...

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