From debut author Clough comes a historical biography of an American’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War.
Born in New Hampshire to a prominent family, Barton Carter seems to have had a happy childhood of New England excursions, good schooling, and genial family relations—“His parents and siblings adored him, and they knew they could always depend on him, regardless of the circumstances.” After attending Williams College and securing a job at “a conservative investment bank and private equities firm” in London, one might think Carter would have settled down to a comfortable life abroad. After a visit to Spain, however, he finds a country in a state of upheaval. It’s 1936, and the Spanish Civil War is escalating. Journeying to Barcelona, where various anti-Fascist groups seem in high spirits, Carter notes that “practically every other man was a militiaman.” He finds that “in just two weeks, the people of Spain had transformed him.” Beginning with a job driving a truck for the nonpolitical National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief, the book follows Carter’s involvement with his new calling and the many atrocities of war that surround him. But, as his sympathy for the Republican cause increases, how long will he resist the role of a combatant? At its best when detailing the heavy fighting of the later days of the war, Carter’s quest takes on a bleak quality that illustrates the eventual hopelessness of the cause. Likewise, later chapters detailing the author’s own quest to tell Carter’s story are full of intrigue, not the least of which involves a visit to a medium. Forced dialogue—“Hello. I’m Bart Carter. I’m from America and am working as a truck driver for the NJC”—may cause attention to wander in early portions. The payoff, however, is a standout tale of a brave young man’s determination to participate in history, no matter how sad the eventual conclusion.
A congested but nevertheless in-depth investigation of an overlooked war and the types of people drawn to it.