Form and Content
Although Martha Gellhorn is better known for her superb journalism, this collection demonstrates her formidable skills as an observer of social manners and cultural differences in settings that range from the United States to England to Italy and to Africa. The Novellas of Martha Gellhorn represents some of her best fiction ranging from her Depression-era work, the four novellas of The Trouble I’ve Seen (1936), to the three novellas of The Weather in Africa (1978). The fiction is a product of Gellhorn’s mania for travel, her urge to see how other people live. The novellas in The Trouble I’ve Seen are firsthand accounts of the people she met while working for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The way in which these people thought and dressed are noted with exquisite detail and sympathy but with remarkably little of the sentimentality that often mars the proletarian fiction of the 1930’s. The stories still seem fresh.
Gellhorn’s later fiction often focuses on the subject of marriage; indeed her second book of novellas, Two by Two (1958), takes the titles of its four stories from the marriage service: “For Better for Worse,” “For Richer for Poorer,” “In Sickness and in Health,” and “Till Death Us Do Part.” Here she shows a wonderful ear for dialogue, revealing the joys and tensions of courtship and marriage through the exchanges of lovers who often misunderstand the import of each other’s words. She continues this interest in the vagaries of marriage in the...
(The entire section is 645 words.)