A Big Disappointment
Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes is guilty of false advertising with his subtitle "The Spanish Civil War and the World it Made." The book does nothing of the sort. He discusses the Spanish War through the lenses of several participants on the Republican side where is sympathies clearly lay. He shows doctors Edward Barsky and Norman Bethune in action as they develop new methods of transporting blood to the battlefield. He also poignantly gives life to the British combat nurse Patience Darton.
This is all to the good, but he hardly shows the very real political motivations of his protagonists. They were all people deeply entrenched in the Left. It would have helped to get to know them before they got to Spain. As to Bethune as Rhodes notes that after he was "purged" out of Spain he goes on to provide his medical services in support of the Chinese Communists. He dies in China. Rhodes also ignores the Communist-Anarchist struggle in Barcelona highlighted so well by Orwell in his "Homage to Catalonia." and nowhere is the stark role of Stalin's NKVD brilliantly portrayed in several Alan Furst novels. Further he portrays New York Times reported Herbert Mathews as a disinterested observer which was hardly the case.
For a readers who want to get a different but better sense of several of the non-Spanish personalities (several of whom Rhodes discusses) who
supported the Republican cause I would recommend Amanda Vaill's "Hotel Florida....."
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