PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Given how many times Vivian Gornick has elaborated on the faults of her 1977 oral history, The Romance of American Communism, I feel a little unsophisticated for finding it so compelling. The things she has said of the book – that it is \'strangely over-written\' and that there is a tendency to romanticise – are true. Everyone should have someone in their lives who looks at them the way Gornick looks at her former communists ... This isn’t a book about dangerous revolutionaries or what a communist America might actually have looked like – it isn’t even exactly about politics. Instead it is about people whom Gornick regards as \'honest dissenters\', and how communism made them feel. As such, it is far from complete as a history of American communism but it is a fascinating and enlightening contribution to one.
Nancy F. Cott
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Those who dug in and stayed long enough became some of the best-informed voices to speak up against American isolationism in the years of fascism’s march, as Nancy F. Cott shows in Fighting Words ... Eventually history solved the problem of objectivity ... Sheean was in the Sudetenland at the time of the Munich Crisis. By then, he wrote, \'objective reporting\' was \'hardly possible\': the threat from German aggression was too abundantly clear. He, Gunther and Thompson were unequivocal about the dangers of fascism and vocal in encouraging the US to take an active role in world affairs. Cott is explicit about parallels between their time ... Cott...crams a lot into this book, but there’s a lot to cover. Geopolitics jostles with affairs, adventures, marriages, break-ups and break-downs, births, deaths, careers and friendships. At its core are the influence and responsibility of journalists.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)In her readable and thorough biography, Eleanor Fitzsimons presents a real life of high drama and storytelling ... interesting in showing how Nesbit’s lifelong socialist principles found expression in her children’s books. Yet perhaps the biographer is too insistent on drawing links between the life and the fiction. It is true that Nesbit’s characters are often semi-orphans, but then any children’s writer worth their salt knows that absent, or at least supremely negligent, parents are a prerequisite for a decent adventure. Fitzsimons does not always allow for the complex workings of fantasy, craft and imagination in the fiction – elements that are just as relevant, one suspects, in Nesbit’s approach to life.