I’m not sure why but the majority of travel memoirs around seem to be written by men. That’s a great pity - after all, the world is full of women who travel, often alone (I am one of them) and we all have stories to tell of our escapades. That’s why today, I’ve decided to review the wonderful “Travels with Myself and Another” by the accomplished and intrepid Martha Gellhorn, war correspondent (between 1939-1963) and third wife of Ernest Hemmingway.
The book is a true travel narrative. Gellhorn was a brave and sometimes reckless woman (well, you'd have to be, to marry Hemmingway) and the tales she recounts here are what she calls her “horror stories” - that is the hardship of travelling in less developed parts of the world (some of them actual war zones). Including trips she made to China, Russia and Africa, she never misses the opportunity to let her reader know of the hellish conditions she often endured (by all accounts, she loved cleanliness and comfort) and how travel can be as tedious as it often is exciting.
Gellhorn was a great advocate of the motto “Leap before you look” - and took the view that the way to grab a reader was by describing disaster. Some might call her a pessimist, but I think she merely told it like it was - squalid cities, streets overflowing with filth, hotel rooms filled with insects. She is so honest, it’s often painful to read, and often very grouchy (which I can identify with, since it’s hard not to complain when you’re in the middle of the African Bush and your Land Rover breaks down!)
All of this makes Martha Gellhorn a woman far ahead of her time. Having said that, some of the book makes for uncomfortable reading - she has a pretty disdainful attitude to locals in Africa (by today’s standards we’d be calling her a racist) and could often be extremely intolerant. But she was also incredibly brave, sometimes utterly fearless, and her pioneering spirit is constantly shining through in her writing. Don’t forget that she was also travelling in an era when it wasn’t comfortable - no credit cards, internet or company accounts - just pack a bag and off you go. And so she did.
“Gellhorn is incapable of writing a dull sentence” once wrote the London Times, and I agree entirely. This is a book that leaves you admiring her gutsy, ‘tell it like it is’ attitude and leaves you dying to hit the road. Martha G. was reckless, bold and committed to making the world a better place, and once you’ve read this I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you’ll be itching to find out more about her.