"The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn--a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. It's the adventure she's been looking for and her chance to prove herself a worthy journalist in a field dominated by men. But she also finds herself unexpectedly--and uncontrollably--falling in love with Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest's relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man's wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that could force her to break his heart, and hers. Heralded by Ann Patchett as "the new star of historical fiction," Paula McLain brings Gellhorn's story richly to life and captures her as a heroine for the ages: a woman who will risk absolutely everything to find her own voice"--
Written from the point of view of Martha Gellhorn, the relationship begins when she and her mother visit a bar in the Florida Keys. Trying not to be excited, Martha recognizes Hemingway at the end of the bar. Surprised when he walks up to her, she and her mother are invited to his home and wife.
An accomplished writer, Martha wrote for Collier's and followed Ernest into the Spanish Civil War. Their tempestuous love affair began there amid the terror of death and honor of those fighting for their country. Soon after returning to the US, they began to live together in Cuba. Finding a house and staking it as theirs, both writers fell into a rhythm of writing, loving and living.
History shows that Martha loved his three sons by two previous wives. All seemed well until Ernest's fame lit a match with the designation that his book For Whom The Bell Tolls became the book of all books! After he became tremendously popular, the marriage started to fall apart at the seams. When Martha decided to go to Europe to cover WWII, Ernest knew that while he was drawn to her independence, truly what he wanted was a stay at home, pregnant wife.
While his drinking became legend and his cruelty spun out of control, he could not abide a wife who traveled without him and left him "alone." A very troubled man needed a woman at his side always.
This is a wonderful love story with the backdrop of the barbarity of war.
I also just had trouble with Martha and Ernest's relationship as a whole. Nothing about it was surprising, however, the way it was written just didn't feel quite right. It didn't feel like either was particularly in love- just lust. Martha loved his children, that was clear, but the man himself? It wasn't there for me. I also found that I didn't really care. They both just seem so selfish and self-serving, which you cannot build a relationship on. Perhaps had the story been told in a third-person manner rather than narrated by Martha it would have been better. Some objective narrator that could see the damage would have been nice.
I also found the white American privilege during war times so annoying. Yes, they were both writers. But there was no struggling, even the hard times they faced during writers block was short lived. There was always an option available to change the scenery, the conditions under which they were writing. There was little concern for the people involved in the war, though not absent, it wasn't intense in my opinion. Unless, of course, referring to Ernest's son Bumby. I don't necessarily mind this attitude, as it was probably accurate given the circumstances, but again, it would have been nice to have an observer whom could see this fallacy and enlightened the audience.
I have enjoyed reading the author’s previous books, but this one left me a bit cold. I did like it, but only as a beach read, or perhaps chick lit, which I do not prefer.
This novel is billed as historic fiction, but it grows more into a romance. It is about the supposed relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Although much younger than he, she, an aspiring writer, is enamored completely by him, his fame and reputation. After her father dies, she goes on a trip to Spain with her grieving mother. There, in Barcelona, they encounter Hemingway at a bar. According to McLain, he engages them in conversation, and voila, they are smitten.
After she goes home to America with her mom, he gets in touch with her and encourages her to return to Spain to cover the war and to be with him. Hitler will soon march across Europe. He gives her hints on how to wangle her way there under the auspices of a publisher. She knows he is married and has met both his wife and their daughter; this knowledge does not dissuade her from crossing the sea and having an affair with him, nor did it dissuade his current second wife from taking him from his first wife.
At times, Martha seems painfully naïve, and at other times, she seems to be a woman of the world as she pulls off her charades and manipulates situations to enable her to return to Europe, to both be with Ernest and to cover the action. Although there are interesting moments like her involvement with Eleanor Roosevelt and the tidbits about the war, with she and Ernest falling into each other’s arms as bombs fell, I found it to be largely a love story about two people who felt irresistibly drawn to each other when they met. I wondered at Gellhorn’s mindset as she surely must have realized that once married and cheated, then twice married and cheated, the thrice married was not going to be the charm to bring about permanency in Ernest’s lovelife. He was still going to cheat.
About half way through the book, I inadvertently erased it from my listening device. I have to wonder if it was an unconscious desire to discontinue the book. I did not like the way Gellhon was portrayed as a shrinking violet at times and as a sophisticated woman of interacting with the rich and famous, at others. I wondered if she was using Hemingway and hanging onto his coattails for the purpose of furthering her own career, which it inevitably did. The portrayal of Hemingway as a letch and terribly disorderly character disturbed my romantic image of him.
The book felt melodramatic to me, and although I did put myself back on the wait list at the library to get the book and finish it, I am not sure that I will be motivated to do so when it comes due. I have an ebook, so perhaps I will take another look at that. At any rate, if you like chick lit, and you like this author and don’t expect too much from the book, you will like it.
Like her previous novel, The Paris Wife, McLain uses the voice of Hemingway's love interest, in this case writer/journalist Marty Gellhorn, to tell the story. Unlike The Paris Wife, if my memory serves me correctly, the reader is now exposed to Hemingway's thoughts, through italicized chapters, which makes him less of a predator cad and more of a sympathetic, complicated and troubled sort of man.
Marty first meets Hemingway by chance in one of his Key West haunts while traveling with her mother. He is cordial and charming as he gives them a tour of Key West and then to visit his home and family. As an accomplished author he offers his help to the struggling young writer even arranging connections for her to reach war torn Madrid to cover the front lines for Collier's. He'll be there too, of course, to help a friend film a movie to raise money for ambulances.
Marty is conflicted when Hemingway makes advances towards her. She's met his wife and sons, after all. But being Hemingway she can't hold him off for long and their illicit love affair commences.
McLain's clear and concise writing takes their years together to the Spanish Civil War, happy, lazy days in Cuba, sailing towards the gulf stream on Hemingway's fishing boat, Pilar. With the advent of World War II, their relationship sours, Gellhorn has the opportunity to report from the European Theater leaving Hemingway alone to wrestle his demons but he's a vindictive character and has a talent for getting things his way. As the title of this novel implies, all good things come to an end but what a time it was.
McLain's writing is top notch and gives those with wanderlust an enjoyable read through an historical era and for those who want to more clearly gain some knowledge into Hemingway's troubled soul something to chew on and consider.
Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.
“Love and Ruin” by Paula McLain is an amazing, captivating, intriguing and intense novel. The Genres for this novel are Fiction and Historical Fiction, with an essence of Romance. The timeline for this story is before and during World War Two. The story takes place in Spain, Cuba, and Europe, as well as the United States.
I appreciate the historical research that Paula McLain has done to vividly describe the destruction of war. The author describes her characters as complex and complicated. Martha Gelhorn, an author and journalist and Ernest Hemingway, an author have an intense and stormy relationship.
Martha Gelhorn is portrayed as an ambitious, active, and dedicated journalist reporting atrocities of war. Ernest Hemingway is portrayed as a moody, at times ego-centric author. During the time of their relationship Ernest Hemingway writes one of his greatest novels “From Whom the Bell Tolls”. There seems to be competition and rivalry at times between the two authors.
I would recommend this novel to readers that appreciate the genre of Historical Fiction. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
Vivid and pulsing with atmosphere- but a very challenging read.
Wow, Paula McClain can really draw a person into a specific time zone and leave them mesmerized by the political climate, the danger, the romance, and larger than life characters the book is centered around.
I loved ‘The Paris Wife’, the fictional account of Hemingway and his first wife. The suspense in TPW was on a more personal and emotional level. But, with Martha ‘Marty’ Gelhorn, the tension comes from a variety of circumstances, but emotion is pretty far down on the list.
Marty was an author and journalist in her own right. She was a well- known and respected war correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War. Falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a married man, was not on her agenda, but nevertheless she embarks on a long and tumultuous affair with him and eventually he leaves his second wife, Pauline, marrying Martha almost immediately after the divorce was final.
This book chronicles Marty’s life during her “Hemingway’ years, from their first meeting, to all the adventures they experienced and survived together, to their marriage, and the eventual breakup.
The author did an amazing job of recreating the atmosphere of pre-world war two, the Spanish War, the many places in which Marty traveled to, and of course Hemingway’s Key West and the home Marty and Hemingway purchased and renovated in Cuba.
She also created interwoven textures between Hemingway and Martha's struggle with her status as his lover, not his wife, and her own ambitions. The book covers the time frame in which Hemingway wrote and published ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, and the way the success of that novel forced a wedge between them.
However, the book, as comprehensive as it needed to be, was a real challenge for me at times. I loved the history and felt the relationship development was very well done and realistic. But, Hemingway could be so disagreeable and downright mean. I didn’t care for Marty either on a personal level, disliking the way she acquiesced to Hemingway at times, and her apathy towards breaking up his marriage. So, despite all the rich details and the lush, dangerous atmosphere the novel captured so vividly.I often felt irritable with the characters. While this may be a fictionalized accounting of events, you still can’t totally rewrite history or make the characters likeable, if they really aren’t. Still, Hemingway, warts and all, is such an intriguing person to characterize and Marty, who held her own against his rising popularity in the literary world, perhaps threatened his ego more than anyone else he was romantically associated with. Yet, she did struggle internally with her role as his lover and wife, a common conflict, as her career dueled against the typical role for women, and eventually forced Marty into a fateful decision. I admired Marty’s journalism career and her bravery, however, and believe she was a trailblazer, influencing war correspondence for many years.
The book is interesting, but on an emotional level it didn’t quite grab me in the same way ‘The Paris Wife’ did. Still, this a worthy fictional accounting of Martha and Ernest Hemingway, and is informative, and even thought provoking.
I thoroughly enjoyed "Love and Ruin", the 2nd of Paula McLain's portrayals of the wives of Ernest Hemingway after "The Paris Wife" which was about 1st wife Hadley. 2nd wife Pauline falls between the cracks though as she was the cause of the breakup of the 1st marriage and is turn betrayed herself when Hemingway begins an affair with future 3rd wife Gellhorn. McLain has done both books so well though that I would certainly be supportive of a tetralogy where both Pauline and 4th wife Mary receive a fictional biography.
Gellhorn was famously contemptuous and silent about Hemingway for the rest of her life after their bad breakup, relegating him to anonymity in her autobiography "Travels With Myself and Another" so the feat of reconstruction here is even more to be praised.
Hemingway fans may notice a few missteps along the way, that may signal more thorough research on Gellhorn was done than on her partner. A description of the main plot of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" describes American volunteer guerilla bomber Robert Jordan planning to blow up a bridge to thwart the Republican (sic) attack, although it was actually Franco's Nationalists that Jordan was fighting. Gellhorn's description of Hemingway's anti-UBoat patrols gives them the nickname "The Crime Shop" or "The Crook Factory" instead of the "Hooligan Navy." "Operation Friendless" was at least given as its correct official title. "The Crook Factory" was Hemingway's name for his supposed Cuban network of spies and informers. Hemingway's not very flattering fictional portrayal of Gellhorn in his single play "The Fifth Column" (1938) is completely ignored, although it surely must have sent up some warning bells in the mind of the astute Gellhorn.
Finally, although it is acknowledged briefly that Hemingway's youthful sons were always impressed by Gellhorn's ability to swear and curse, there is none of that on actual display here, so we have a very family-friendly version of Gellhorn.
Still those are very nit-picky things which can be forgiven in the overall well dramatized character arc of the Hemingway-Gellhorn romance that is portrayed here.
I love to read about the women pioneers who paved the way for others and this one did not disappoint at all!
What a sad time she had always being compared with Hemingway (as if there were any connection other than their marriage).
His stealing of her Collier's job was horrendous, abhorrent and just plain atrocious!
I loved reading this book and learning more about these people. I love the series of the wives of Hemingway by this author.
Thanks to Random House Ballantine and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
I was not a big fan of that book but I really enjoyed Ms McLain’s second book Circling the Sun.
This, however, is a very good story. It traces the relationship of Hemingway and Gellhorn from their meeting in 1936 to the end of the Second World War in 1945. A historical novel that follows Gellhorn from war zones in Spain’s fall to Franco to Finland to Japan and China to Europe and to England, and France. Gellhorn has the drive , ambition and the desire to write which draws her to Hemingway and puts her in competition, whether actual or only in the minds of book critics. Their relationship is replete with extreme highs and lows. McLain hints at the instability in Hemingway, that will eventually bring his ending.
She does not make either character completely without guilt in the collapse of their marriage, but obviously her sympathies lie with Gellhorn.
I really liked the feeling of accompanying Gellhorn through history. She does make you feel a part of the story.
Read as an ARC from NetGalley.
Unlike any of his other wives, Hemingway's marriage o Gelhorn was much more a marriage of equals with each of them pursuing their own writing careers. And therein lay the problem. What was seductively sexy in the white hot heat of the Spanish Civil War devolved into mundane professional jealousy as Gelhorn was given more and more interesting assignments in war torn Europe and Asia while Hemingway sank into writer's block and petty jealousy.
A successful marriage is the art of compromise on both sides and compromise was something neither Hemingway nor Gelhorn was capable of. Martha walked away first - the only one of Hemingway's wives to leave him. She continued her successful journalism career, covering wars into her eightieth decade. As for Hemingway, we all know how that ended.
“The interesting thing about chaos is that it provides perfect privacy.”
“I don’t know if I believe in war, it just makes ghosts.”
Martha first met Ernest on a holiday in Key West and from there they formed a friendship which turned into a romantic relationship that spanned from 1937 and the Spanish Civil War up until the end of World War II. Their relationship was consumed with writing, travel and quite a bit of alcohol.
Ernest is a bit larger than life and his needs seemed to suffocate Martha. Martha had an adventurous spirit and was not content to stay at home and be only a housewife. Ernest seemed to think that once married, Martha was to be at his disposal at all times. Ernest comes off as extremely self-centered. Having read Paula McClain’s earlier novel, The Paris Wife, I think it’s safe to say that Ernest was a successful writer, but an awful husband.
The book was a slow read for me and at times seem to drag on. I found much of the writing about Martha and Ernest to be filled with superficial content, such as what they were eating or how their writing was coming along. My favorite parts of the book were when Martha was on assignment in Finland and later in Europe--most especially her time in Normandy on D-Day. Martha’s life is wonderful as a story of it’s own. It’s a shame she often was known simply as one of Hemingway’s wives.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing- Ballantine for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
The richness of their storytelling begins with their obvious interest in the women they have chosen to highlight in their historical fiction novels and of the intense research that leads to the intimate portrayal for the reader to absorb the period of history and to be simply fascinated with these extraordinary women – their loves, their fears, their interests, their attitudes, their achievements, their commitments, and particularly their remarkable and exceptional examples of strength and courage through times of conflict and loss.
Paula McLain's novels have touched my heart and thoughts beyond the end of the last page and the closure of the book.
Martha Gellhorn was a famous war correspondent, covering the Spanish Civil War, all the way through some of the Arab/Israeli conflict in the 1970s. But she is also famous as Ernest Hemingway's 2nd wife and this novel really covers her life as it intersects with Hemingway.
As far as depicting a time and place, this book was phenomenal. And the descriptions, including the personality quirks, of both Gellhorn and Hemingway were spot on. I definitely learned quite a bit about both of these famous writers. But as with many historical fiction novels based on real people, there is only so much you can do as far as character development or plot. These are real people and that puts a bit of a constraint on a story line.
I'm not a huge Hemingway fan, but I appreciate his skill. But when you learn about an artist or a writer whose work you admire, and that person turns out to be somewhat of a jerk, it's always a challenge to separate the art from the creator. Hemingway really mistreated the women in his life and I'm hoping that doesn't take away from my appreciation of his writing.
In the beginning of the book, the author kept using the past tense. It made the book really hard to get into. However, once the author switched to present tense, I found myself getting into the story and the characters. It was fascinating to read about an adventurous, courageous and ground breaking woman. I found myself googling Martha after I finished the book, I just wanted to know every detail about her. If you find yourself stuck after the first few chapters, kept pushing along, the book really picks up speed. Overall, well worth reading.
I was lucky to see McLain speak at the Rochester library a few years ago. Her life and the way she picks her subjects and researches is really fascinating. If she comes to your bookstore/library definitely go see her.
Love and Ruin is a fictional take on Ernest Hemingway and his marriage to Martha Gellhorn. I am not familiar with Martha and Ernest and their life together. Reading this book I really enjoyed the interaction of Martha and Ernest. Ernest seemed a little narcissistic at times.
It is interesting how Paula was able to create such a story surrounding Martha and Ernest by the research she did and building her own ideas from that information. I felt drawn to these two from the beginning. I am glad our book club read this book.