Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made

Written by Richard Rhodes
Review by M.K. Tod

The Spanish Civil War was both brutal and heroic. In Hell and Good Company, Richard Rhodes takes us through the major events, but it is the characters, both famous and little known, and their contributions that make the story come alive. The participation of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Bethune, and Pablo Picasso are blended with those of Patience Darton, an English nurse; Robert Merriman, adjutant to the Lincoln Battalion; Edward Barsky, volunteer American surgeon, and others by weaving excerpts from their diaries, memoirs and biographies into the narrative.

Rhodes shows us how the war enhanced medical techniques like blood transfusion, mobile surgeries, and the use of triage in battlefield conditions. He describes the inspiration for Picasso’s famous Guernica, a tribute to the Spanish Republic, and profiles the military support offered by International Brigade members from countries around the world. As major battles unfold, Rhodes explains German and Italian support for Franco and the rebels he led, Russian support for Republican forces, and the lack of support from countries such as the United States, Britain and France. Throughout, Rhodes makes it clear how Hitler used Spain as a training ground for German strategies and equipment, and for those who would soon take command in WWII. Hell and Good Company is a book you won’t want to put down.