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Archive: Other Books > Love and Ruin by Paula McLain--5 stars + ♥

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Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
5 stars + ♥

I love little more than learning about kickass women who have somehow been overlooked by history—or at least by me. Or, in the case of Martha Gellhorn, placed solely in the shadow of a man. I feel like I am single-handedly giving the marginalized women a boost into their rightful place in history.

Seriously, did y'all know that Martha Gellhorn was so freaking awesome?! She was an amazing war correspondent who reported from conflict zones for over SIXTY YEARS. She started during the Spanish War when she was young and followed her passion into a situation she was ill-prepared for. But, it lit a spark in her to tell the stories of people in these wars, and to tell their stories in honest, straight-forward manners that may be subjective but she had no other eyes through which to tell the stories.

She travelled the world. Was the only woman on Omaha Beach during D-Day—which she got onto by lying about her press credentials and sneaking onto a nurses ship—and was one of the first reporters to report from Dachau. Just that would be enough, but she covered conflicts in Africa and Cuba, and went to Panama when she was 81 years old.

Oh, and did I mention she published books too?! Fiction, nonfiction, essays, short stories. She did it all.

Seems like it would take a long shadow to eclipse all of that pure awesomeness. So, just whose shadow was she in? Ernest Hemingway's. Arguably most famous for being Hemingway's third wife—and the only one to leave him—she was married to the most famous author in America while he wrote and published For Whom the Bell Tolls. Gellhorn fell madly in love with Hemingway in war-torn Spain, eventually married him despite her reservations about what it would mean for her career, made choices to continue her journalism career despite Hemingway wanting her to stay home in Cuba with him, and she witnessed his slide into depression/mental illness.

I loved everything about this book, which is not completely surprising given how much I like the author, Paula McLain. McLain weaves such wonderful stories that are well researched and engaging. And, in this book particularly, McLain's admiration of Gellhorn shines through every word, but she does not stray from depicting Gellhorn's less flattering characteristics. She was quick to anger and often blamed Hemingway for her insecurities.

I also think McLain was fairly generous in her portrayal of Hemingway. I mean, how do you portray a literary genius? With honesty. And McLain honestly portrayed Hemingway's well-known traits as well as his struggle with depression. A struggle he ultimately lost when he took his own life.

I was not crazy about McLain's The Paris Wife about Hemingway's first wife Hadley, but I absolutely adored Circling the Sun. Love & Ruin is right up there with Circling the Sun and I cannot wait to see what McLain decides to write about next, but sincerely hope that it continues to be amazing women from history.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments **Note: there was a bit of espionage in this book as Hemingway was part of a Cuban spy ring during WW2, but it is only mentioned a handful of times and, since the book is told from Gellhorn's POV, there are no details about it.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments **Second note: the Kindle version of this is currently available for $3.99.

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Ruin-Nove...


message 4: by KateNZ (new) - added it

KateNZ | 2214 comments Great recommendation, Nicole. I had never heard of her, to my shame. Onto the TBR awaiting a suitable future tag :)


message 5: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8297 comments I can't wait for this one. Had no idea I could also use it for espionage too. I loved Circling the Sun too. But I also really liked the Paris Wife. I have the feeling I am going to love this one.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments So glad you added it, Kate! I hope you enjoy it.


message 7: by Jeremiah (new) - added it

Jeremiah Cunningham | 691 comments For those of you that enjoyed Circling the Sun, you really should read West with the Night which is credited as being written by Beryl Markham about her own life. This book was originally published in the 1940's and received critical acclaim and had decent sales. Then the book went out of print and was forgotten about until the 1980's when it resurfaced to really good sales but then the question of authorship arose.

I recently heard about the book because of recommendations from Andy Andrews (who is a masterful researcher of biographies) and did not realize there had been a more recent book written about Markham.

In 1942 Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter about the book to a friend recommending the writing. He had apparently become acquainted with Markham while in Africa. He wrote the following:

"Did you read Beryl Markham's book, "West with the Night"? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and some times making an okay pig pen. But this girl who is, to my knowledge, very unpleasant,... can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true. So, you have to take as truth the early stuff about when she was a child which is absolutely superb. She omits some very fantastic stuff which I know about which would destroy much of the character of the heroine; but what is that anyhow in writing? I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody, wonderful book."

I have yet to read West into the Night, but now I want to read it and Circling the Sun.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments West with the Night has been flitting around the edges of my TBR since I read Circling the Sun but I have yet to take the plunge.

I do not think I realized that Hemingway knew Markham! Isn't is a weird, small world sometimes. Every time I read about Hemingway interacting with Fitzgerald, my brain explodes a little. Can you just image sitting with those two literary giants over a meal in Paris at the start of their careers?! I wonder, in 50 years, who we will look back and marvel at being contemporaries.


message 9: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2762 comments I read West with the Night when my husband bought his first plane. It was about the same time that Out of Africa was such a big hit in theaters. Markham is a very interesting personality, but I hold with those who don't believe that she is actually the author. On the other hand, Karen Blixen, was definitely an amazing writer.

https://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/24/bo...


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow! I absolutely love your review, your enthusiasm for this book and your descriptions. Just by your review I'm adding it to my TBR! Of course I had to look. up Martha Gellhorn so I could learn some more about her and I am sold on reading this one.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Jgrace wrote: "It was about the same time that Out of Africa was such a big hit in theaters.."

I should add the movie to my watch list too even though it is not about Markham. I am sure the library has it!


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Rachel wrote: "Wow! I absolutely love your review, your enthusiasm for this book and your descriptions. Just by your review I'm adding it to my TBR! Of course I had to look. up Martha Gellhorn so I could learn so..."

Thank you! That is a very lovely compliment :)


message 13: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2762 comments Nicole R wrote: "Jgrace wrote: "It was about the same time that Out of Africa was such a big hit in theaters.."

I should add the movie to my watch list too even though it is not about Markham. I am sure the librar..."


Markham is a minor character in the movie.


message 14: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7252 comments J.W. wrote: "For those of you that enjoyed Circling the Sun, you really should read West with the Night which is credited as being written by Beryl Markham about her own life. This book was originally published..."

Wow-so odd-I just picked this book up at Used Book Sale, and just on a whim because I loved the coverWest with the Night


message 15: by Jeremiah (new) - added it

Jeremiah Cunningham | 691 comments Joanne wrote: "J.W. wrote: "For those of you that enjoyed Circling the Sun, you really should read West with the Night which is credited as being written by Beryl Markham about her own life. This book was origina..."

Such a crazy thing how that happens. I hope you enjoy the book when you get around to reading it. I will look for your review. Despite the controversy over authorship.


Ladyslott | 1880 comments I’m on the waitlist for this, should have it in a week or two. I loved West With the Night, I read it two years ago. 5 stars.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Ladyslott wrote: "I’m on the waitlist for this, should have it in a week or two. I loved West With the Night, I read it two years ago. 5 stars."

Linda, I have no doubt that you will like it.

And, as a side note, I am finally starting Summer Wives this weekend! I saw you gave it 4 stars so I am hopeful.


message 18: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8297 comments If you rate it high too Nicole, it’s going to have to go back on my TBR.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments I think you would like it Amy!


message 20: by Karin (new)

Karin | 6926 comments Nicole R wrote: "**Note: there was a bit of espionage in this book as Hemingway was part of a Cuban spy ring during WW2, but it is only mentioned a handful of times and, since the book is told from Gellhorn's POV, ..."

If you want an espionage novel about a real female spy, there were some in the civil war as well, and not just Harriett Tubman.

Sarah Emma Edmonds was one.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Thanks for the tip! I did not pick this one up for espionage, just a little note about it since it is the monthly tag.

Is the woman you mentioned (on darn phone so can’t see it while I type) in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy? I am considering that as my second book this month if I get to two....


Booknblues | 5516 comments Nicole R wrote: "**Second note: the Kindle version of this is currently available for $3.99.

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Ruin-Nove......"


I have Beautiful Exiles on my TBR which is about Martha and Hemingway. I'm going to bump it up a bit to compare notes.

I've read 2 books by Paula McLain and appreciate her writing so may have to read both and compare.


message 23: by Karin (last edited Aug 10, 2018 04:20PM) (new)

Karin | 6926 comments Nicole R wrote: "Thanks for the tip! I did not pick this one up for espionage, just a little note about it since it is the monthly tag.

Is the woman you mentioned (on darn phone so can’t see it while I type) in L..."


Yes, she is--she is the one who disguised herself as a man in order to join the North and then disguised herself as a male spy--rather like a real life Victor, Victoria (old movie starring Julie Andrews) but not as a performer. This book will probably be an easier read than her autobiographical account.


Theresa | 6335 comments Nicole R wrote: "Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
5 stars + ♥

I love little more than learning about kickass women who have somehow been overlooked by history—or at least by me. Or, in..."


What a great review, Nicole! Love that you too are a fan of Paula McLain. She is so gifted, able to bring to life the unique voice of each amazing woman! There are so many out there, she will never run out of inspiration.


Ladyslott | 1880 comments I think this will be my beach read as I head for my week on the beach in Montauk.


message 26: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8297 comments I’m right behind you. It’s sitting on my bedside table, so should get to it ASAP.


message 27: by Barbara M (new) - added it

Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2191 comments Good grief! My TBR is exploding. I must read Love and Ruin and West With the Night and Beautiful Exiles! whew!


Booknblues | 5516 comments I'm reading Beautiful Exiles now and really enjoying it.


message 29: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8297 comments Good to know!


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments I had seen the book Beautiful Exiles, but honestly had not even read the description to know that it is also about Hemingway and Gellhorn! I am adding it to my TBR as well.


Booknblues | 5516 comments Nicole R wrote: "I had seen the book Beautiful Exiles, but honestly had not even read the description to know that it is also about Hemingway and Gellhorn! I am adding it to my TBR as well."

It is told first person in Gelhorn's voice which I am really liking. I think it mainly focuses on her and Hemingway and doesn't tell her whole life's story.


message 32: by Michael (new)

Michael (mike999) | 569 comments Fabulous review, Nicole. Great to hear Gelhorn's story is up there with Circling the Sun.

Another woman who served as a war correspondent was Margaret Fuller, who covered various European revolutions in mid-19th century (great bio: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life).


message 33: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8297 comments I am right behind you guys and starting this one tomorrow!


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