This true story of a young American who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War is well researched and engaging.
A young college-age man, raised in privilege in New England, believes he’s found true meaning for his life when he begins helping child refugees in civil-war-torn Spain. Nancy Barton Carter Clough, a namesake niece, brings his tumultuous true story to life in Searching for Barton Carter: The Story of a Young American Hero, a well-researched and well-documented treatise.
Barton’s name was rarely mentioned when Clough was growing up; it seemed to her the family kept him a hidden and mysterious secret. Only as an adult did she realize this was how his very wealthy—but also very fragile—family was able to cope with the sudden disappearance of this American “Golden Boy,” seemingly swallowed up at age twenty-three amid the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War in the spring of 1938. It’s also a “written account of Barton’s search for himself and his parents’ futile search for their beloved son.”
Culled from diaries, letters, newspaper articles, interviews, and trips to modern-day Spain, the author has retraced and tracked nearly every aspect of her uncle’s twenty-three years, adopting what she calls a semifictionalized and three-dimensional depiction of his life by adding dialogue as well as her own imagination. But all “the characters, places, events, dates, and settings are based on fact.”
Divided into sixty-three chapters through four sections, the story is peppered with more than sixty black-and-white photos that nicely corroborate the text. The extensive appendix includes scans of original material. These include letters from Barton, who changed his name to Nick after friends thought his personality more closely resembled that of a fictional New York detective with the same name. Also included are newsletters from the Puigcerdà colony in Spain where he served as administrator and father figure to war orphans, and correspondence from heavy hitters that his father enlisted to help find his missing son. These political figures included former President Herbert Hoover and then–Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
Clough engages the reader from the first, divulging family history, warts and all. Also included and very helpful for reference are a family tree and a list of characters—the real people who show up in Nick’s story.
The majority of the events take place in Spain, and Clough does a good job of explaining the background of the Spanish Civil War through Nick’s eyes and actual events that occurred. Later chapters reveal how the author grappled with completing this massive undertaking, a project that was years in the making.
The end result is not only a story for her own family’s next generation, but a tale for all about the unselfishness of trying to do good in the world.
Robin Farrell Edmunds
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.