Adam Hochschild was born in New York. His interest in politics began when he was still a college student and spending time in South Africa as well as in Mississippi in 1964, fueled his desire to fight against inequality and injustice in the world. He used his writing and journalistic skills to achieve this goal. Let’s find out more in this Spain in Our Hearts book review.
In Spain in Our Hearts book, Adam Hochschild uses the tools of his trade, namely words, to demonstrate the terrible events of the Spanish Civil War. Using notes that he acquired from love letters, soldier’s letters telling of their homesickness, diaries, newspaper articles, and fellow journalist’s notes, he wove all those words into an emotional quilt that encompasses the horror and the lost hope of that particular conflict.
Like his fellow journalist George Orwell, Hochschild wrote about the Spanish Civil War but he chose to reveal the events through interesting and diverse characters, who were typical of the people who lived through the experience. What makes Spain in Our Hearts so special is the engaging storytelling mixed with an understanding of military history that is beyond compare. If you want to know more about Spanish Civil War, take a look at our selection of the best Civil War in Spain books.
Hochschild’s understanding of the use of contrast in his writing takes the reader on an unforgettable passage between tenderness and brutality, ecstasy and the deepest despair. In fact, it is his ability to evoke our sympathy that takes this from a mere recount of war to a deeply individual experience.
The news headlines announced the events of this war in the 1930s, many well-meaning volunteers travelled to Spain to help the democratic Republicans to defend themselves against the Fascists. It seems that it was considered as a type of jolly outing or an adventure particularly for the journalists who went along to record the events.
If only it had been that simple. With many different and conflicting ideologies being promoted, it was soon evident that it was not the big players who would suffer. Rather, it was the ordinary man in the street who bore the brunt of this clash of philosophies.
He uses universal characters and shows us the conflict through the events that they suffered. He tells a tale that started with optimism but turned into suffering and heart-wrenching disappointment when it all came to nothing. One of his characters is a young woman from Kentucky who went to Spain on her honeymoon, another tells of the wasted life of a young college student who was the first American victim in the battle for Madrid and the interesting but vastly differing viewpoints of the two New York Times reporters who were to cover events.
Some of his best characters reflect the times with such authenticity that it leaves the reader with no doubt that this was a time of opportunity for anyone who was not afraid to get their hands dirty. There was the larger-than-life Texas oilman, a roughish Nazi sympathizer who saw nothing wrong with supplying oil to Franco’s army at bargain prices!
Many critics believe that it is because of this splendid characterization, that Hochschild’s account of the Spanish Civil War is superior to that of Orwell.
When reading Spain in Our Hearts book, one is forced to ask the question whether the outcome of this particular war would have been different if the leading western democracies had not stood by watching the events in Spain unfolding from the side-lines. It also leads us to one of the big 21st century questions of whether military detachment from other country’s battles is preferable to our young men and women losing their lives on foreign soil.