|In the 1930s, women and men from across Britain, Europe and America made their way to Spain to be part of what they identified as a historic fight for freedom from fascism. Sarah Watling follows a handful of women who were determined to live out their lives with courage and conviction.
She weaves together the journeys of the American journalist Martha Gellhorn and the seasoned radical Josephine Herbst; the British writers and partners Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland; the aristocratic rebel Jessica Mitford and the maverick poet Nancy Cunard, drawing in their responses to the Spanish Civil War in both literature and life. She considers the wary position of Virginia Woolf, trying and failing to keep the conflict out of her family, and searches out the stories of African American nurse Salaria Kea, Jewish photographer Gerda Taro and others, tracing their decisions to face up to history.
A year into the struggle, Nancy Cunard took an urgent poll of contemporary writers asking the question straight: which side are you on? Sarah Watling explores how we respond to the need to declare a side, and how we know when that moment – the moment to step forward – has arrived.