American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson by Peter Kurth (197,000 words, 83 illustrations)
Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961) was America’s first internationally famous female foreign correspondent. Born outside of Buffalo, New York, she graduated from Syracuse University in 1914 and honed her writing and interviewing skills in the women’s suffrage movement before heading for Europe as a freelance journalist.
Reporting from Vienna, Budapest and Berlin during the rise of Nazism, she was the first western journalist to be expelled from Germany by Adolf Hitler after denigrating him in a profile. Her later columns in the Ladies’ Home Journal and radio broadcasts for CBS made her, next to Eleanor Roosevelt, the most influential woman in the United States.
Thompson was married three times: her second marriage was to the American novelist, Nobel Prize-winner, and alcoholic Sinclair Lewis; her third and happiest, to Czech artist Maxim Kopf. She also had several lesbian relationships. Avidly interested in everything from sustainable farming to the fine arts, she divided her later years between New York City and her farm in Barnard, Vermont.
“A skillful exploration of the life and personality of the formidable foreign correspondent” — New York Times
“Sensationally good ... Kurth’s vividly detailed and dramatic portrayal of Thompson’s life fully compensates for the memoirs she planned but never lived to write. Here was a one-of-a-kind incarnation of energy, honesty and commitment; a woman we must not forget.” — USA Today
“Kurth guides us through the tumultuous complexities of the time-the rise of Nazism in Germany; isolationism in America; the Second World War; the establishment of Israel and other issues that Thompson took over as her personal battleground. His daunting task is to show us a mind at work, and he pulls it off.” — Washington Post
“In a day of dime-a-dozen pundits jabbering on the talk shows, Thompson’s diligence and influence are worth recalling. Mr. Kurth’s compulsively readable account allows us to re-live an age and do just that.” — Wall Street Journal
“Kurth has a surprising grasp of Thompson’s emotional makeup, strictly avoiding the kind of supercilious or paternalistic attitude that such a character invites in male authors. His biography is insightful without being sentimental, warm without being sycophantic.” — Toronto Star
“An important asset of this big, solid book is author Kurth’s prolific use of Thompson’s own words. She left 150 file cases of published and unpublished writings — chunks of private thoughts and musings on her three husbands and her own sexuality one would have expected her to burn... Kurth has battled through this paper blizzard and emerged with a clear-as-ice-water picture of a turbulent, complex personality.” — Baltimore Sun
“Peter Kurth, author of the haunting Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, proves once again that he is the equal of Stefan Zweig as a biographer of women. His fairness, his control of his material and his eye for the revealing quotation are such that he makes us empathize with Miss Thompson even when we feel like strangling her.” — Washington Times
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