Title: Love and Ruin
Author: Paula McLain
Publisher: 1 May 2018 by Hachette (Australia)
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups
In 1937, courageous and independent Martha Gellhorn travels to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, and finds herself drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly - and uncontrollably - falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man already on his way to being a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Hemingway made their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite.
But when Hemingway publishes the biggest literary success of his career, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the suffocating demands of a domestic lifestyle, or risk losing her husband by forging her way as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.
The internationally bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the timeless subject of Ernest Hemingway in this story of his passionate, volatile third marriage to Martha Gellhorn, an ambitious, fiercely independent, beautiful blonde who became one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century.
“Ernest always said there was a season for everything. A season to love and be loved. To work and rest your bones and your spirit. To dream and to doubt, to fear and to fly. What season was this, then, if not one of ruin?”
Love and Ruin - what a perfect title for this book! Having read Paula’s books before, I was highly anticipating this read. She did not let me down, once again presenting a strong, independent woman and her compelling tale. Her first story centred around Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson; second was Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun. This book is likewise historical fiction, however, I am loving this new genre that has become popular of late where the story is based on fact and real lives. Here is the story of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, who would eventually become his third wife. This story appealed to me because I was intrigued to see yet another side/point of view of the enigmatic Hemingway. What I did not bank on, was learning so much about the amazing Martha Gellhorn who refused to be a ‘footnote’ in Hemingway’s life and was an incredibly brave and strong woman for her time.
“He was at the center of a whirlwind. He was the whirlwind, making it go.”
Historical fiction lovers appreciate a well researched piece - Paula succeeds here once again. Her research is thorough, with amazing attention to detail, as she takes the reader to an array of locations - Madrid, Cuba, Finland and so many more - each making you feel that you are there right along with ‘Marty’ (Martha) and, what an amazing journey this would prove to be! There is so many major historical events, not overwhelming so, that you will learn much and truly deepen your understanding from a personal perspective of some major conflicts the world has experienced. Yes, you have front row seats to Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway evolving and tumultuous relationship, but also, a ticket to everything from the Spanish Civil War and other major locations in WWII. So even though this is a fictional account, it feels like a personal memoir the writing is that good! You can’t help but support Marty on her quest to do ‘something’ in making the world aware of tragic events. This is a sign of a good regaled tale that sees you reaching for your device to Google in a desperate measure to learn more and see if all recounted is true. You will go beyond this book, as it instills in you an appreciation of all that happened and a desire to learn more still.
“It feels important to go everywhere one can and see all there is to see and try to understand it. Everything’s changing so fast. I want to believe in something while there’s still time. I want to tell the truth, even when it’s difficult. And I want to find the story I’m meant to write.”
I now need to dedicate some time to Marty Gellhorn herself as I just found her fascinating. I found some of the best parts of the book to be her independent travels as a war correspondent. Her quest to tell the ‘untold tale’ of the suffering of ordinary people was commendable in the least, she would be the voice of their injustice - this is when she was most alive and at her best. She will take you on some memorable journeys, for example, her being the only woman to land at Normandy on D-day or her talking to Russians POWs in Finland will stay with me for some time. All of this in a time when women were to be at home keeping their husband happy. And herein lies the issue with her and Hemingway. Two such like souls, and she undoubtedly loved him, but she had to be true to who she was and he could not appreciate that in the long run - the only wife who would ultimately leave him - as he would have torn away her very soul.
“I want him, but he’s such a force of nature. He pulls everything into his orbit and seals off the corners and any route of escape. He does it all without trying”
Upon completion I was googling, watching videos, reading up extracts from both of these writers (I remember reading For Whom the Bell Tolls at school) and looking for more detail on wartime events. The best historical fiction books will make you do this! Hats off to Paula McLain who has written a wonderful story here, not just about the relationship between Ernest and Martha, but also the passion of one woman to pursue and perhaps surpass the man she refused to be a ‘footnote’ too! I can’t wait to see who Paula will introduce us to next.
“To feel the world rise up and shake you hard, insisting that you rise, too, somehow. Some way. That you come awake and stretch, painfully. That you change, completely and irrevocably –with whatever means are at your disposal –into the person you were always meant to be.”
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.