SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: May – ‘Spain in our Hearts’ by Adam Hochschild

Spain in our Hearts
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From the acclaimed, best-selling author Adam Hochschild, a sweeping history of the Spanish Civil War, told through a dozen characters, including Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell: a tale of idealism, heartbreaking suffering, and a noble cause that failed
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For three crucial years in the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War dominated headlines in America and around the world, as volunteers flooded to Spain to help its democratic government fight off a fascist uprising led by Francisco Franco and aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Today we’re accustomed to remembering the war through Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and Robert Capa’s photographs. But Adam Hochschild has discovered some less familiar yet far more compelling characters who reveal the full tragedy and importance of the war: a fiery nineteen-year-old Kentucky woman who went to wartime Spain on her honeymoon, a Swarthmore College senior who was the first American casualty in the battle for Madrid, a pair of fiercely partisan, rivalrous New York Times reporters who covered the war from opposites sides, and a swashbuckling Texas oilman with Nazi sympathies who sold Franco almost all his oil — at reduced prices, and on credit.
It was in many ways the opening battle of World War II, and we still have much to learn from it. Spain in Our Hearts is Adam Hochschild at his very best.
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Adam Hochschild is back with his usual expressive and emotional narrative, this time to take on the Spanish Civil War from an American point-of-view. The Spanish Civil War has been written as two sides of the same nation – one banded together with the workers, the artists, the intellectuals, all bolstered by wide-eyed international volunteers, pitted against the Nationalists; the fascist, the army, the Catholic church and the wicked landowners.
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So many tales tell of a romantic story, where optimists from many countries shipped to Spain in order to take on the ‘bad guys’. But Hochschild doesn’t take this typical view – rather he focuses on the facts of those who left the United States, and how their opinions and images could do more than the fighters on the ground. The book tells of how blatant lies were made up to oversell the Republicans power, or to tell total lies about Franco. With the United States continuing an embargo due to the war having a big effect on the outcome, Hochschild also then turns to unknown names, who in fact made a big contribution to  the war, then lost, despite all their efforts. Stories of individual Americans who fought and died in Spain are brought to life without the romance of being renegades or fighters of fascism, destroying the sometimes outdated notions of fighting in someone else’s battle.
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With heavyweights such as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all weighing in on the war in Spain, the world now knows that the civil war was a prelude for WWII, one that could have been altered with American and British help, and could have changed the world forever. The realities for Americans who went to Spain to fight, those wounded, killed in battle, or tortured and executed as prisoners, tell a more honest account of what it meant to leave the US for Spain.
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If you don’t know the story of Spanish Civil War, here is a great book which will give you fresh insight, without laying a glossy layer over what it meant to believe in the Republicans. Definitely worth the read. In a war which had so many sides, hastily cast together on the front line, it is individual stories that deserve to shine.
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