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Love and Ruin
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Archive: Other Books > LOVE & RUIN by Paula McLain 5 stars

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Theresa | 8325 comments Riveting. Before reading this I basically knew nothing of Martha 'Marty' Gellhorn, which was criminal. One of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th Century, starting with the Spanish Civil War and continuing into her 80s! First journalist and only woman to land and report from the Normandy beaches on D-Day. Always telling the human story, the human cost. A hero. A role model. And coincidentally, Ernest Hemingway's 3rd wife.

McClain brings her characters and settings to rich life, and brings the legend that is Hemingway down to earth. This is a much less sympathetic Ernest than that of The Paris Wife, but he is older, lived more and harder, and the demons are harder to keep at bay.

Definitely look forward to McLain's next inspiration as she has a gift for creating fiction based on historical fact and real people. The voice here is totally different than the voice in The Paris Wife, not something all authors can accomplish.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I also just finished this one and totally agree! I really liked this book and cannot wait to read whatever she comes up with next!

I see that you read The Paris Wife, but did you also read Circling the Sun? It was great too!


message 3: by Theresa (last edited Aug 15, 2018 02:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Theresa | 8325 comments Nicole R wrote: "I also just finished this one and totally agree! I really liked this book and cannot wait to read whatever she comes up with next!

I see that you read The Paris Wife, but did you also read Circlin..."


Not yet but it's definitely in the TBR pile! Given it's not like McLain has vast back list for me to work through, I'm deliberately waiting to read Circling the Sun to give her time to write another and thus cutting my wait for it!

Oh, I loved The Paris Wife as well! I gave it 5 stars and here's my review:
"I really enjoyed reading about Hadley and Ernest Hemingway, their marriage and life in Paris. Paris in the early 1920s, just after WWI, the heady creative and wealthy expat community, is vividly portrayed. You meet The Lost Generation in bright renderings. The extremely young (early 20s) Hemingway himself, the extremes of his personality, are beautifully rendered, and the seeds of the legend he became are there. Hadley, whose voice tells her story, reveals her own vulnerabilities as well as her journey to strength and assurance. I cried at the end, actually, for both Hadley and Ernest, a pretty amazing feat given my dislike of Ernest Hemingway resulting from youthful exposure to his books and legend.

Yet even with all this, I had trouble rating it. There is an awful lot of descriptions of drinking, and more drinking, and more drinking. That combined with the fact that until their son was born, Hadley herself did not really DO anything but be Ernest's cheerleader and nurturer while being very dependant on him emotionally, made for some long tedious sections. I found myself irritated by Hadley, her dependency, and willingness to be subsumed. Other sections had me THERE, participating, experiencing.

Then a lightbulb went off: this was the 1920s. Women had just got the vote. Women like Hadley were raised to care for family and marry and have kids, be a wife and mother. It was not the book or its writing I was judging, but Hadley, Ernest and their friends from 21st Century eyes. A second epiphany occured at the end: I actually want to read Hemingway again, because I see better who the man was rather than the legend. I still may not like him in the end, but it is time to read him as an adult.

Or at least re-read both The Sun Also Rises whose background is detailed here, and A Moveable Feast which is his story about Paris and his marriage. Now I wonder where my copies are? My copy of A Moveable Feast was purchased in 1976 at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, which itself shows up in this book!

The author wrote fiction, but she had access to incredible primary source materials [letters and, most amazing, tapes of interviews with Hadley] adding verisimilitude to her writing."


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I liked The Paris Wife, but didn't love it. That had nothing to do with McLain's writing and everything to do that I didn't like Hadley very much, and couldn't relate to her. Again, not McLain's fault as Hadley was a real person.

For me, I wanted Hadley to stand up to Hemingway and not let him walk all over her! I think that is what I loved about Gellhorn in this one, she may have had a fiery relationship with Hemingway but she stood up for herself and her career—and what a career it was!


Theresa | 8325 comments Nicole R wrote: "I liked The Paris Wife, but didn't love it. That had nothing to do with McLain's writing and everything to do that I didn't like Hadley very much, and couldn't relate to her. Again, not McLain's fa..."

Didn't you wish you had been able to have dinner with Gellhorn? What a woman! I also thought it incredibly interesting how often both Hemingway and those around him noted that part of what was so attractive to him about Gellhorn was that she did stand up to him and was independent, yet in the end it was a large part of what led to their divorce.

Did you also notice how wife #2, Pauline, who was a journalist when she met Hemingway, appears to have abandoned her career after marriage and became basically the supporting wife to him? He went from Hadley who was raised to be a wife and mother and fulfilled that role with him, to Pauline who had a career that she gave up to be his wife and mother to his children, to Marty who was career-driven and did not give it up after marriage. Now I'm curious about wife #4 who also was a journalist initially I think?


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments It is very interesting that his first wife was the one who appeared the most willing to give him the life he thought he wanted—a home life and a family. But, his next three wives were all journalists and he had varying levels of marital success with each of them.

Have you seen the move Hemingway and Gellhorn? It is currently available on Amazon Prime, if you have it, and is the one where Nicole Kidman plays Gellhorn. I thought it was very good and was interesting to watch right after finishing the book. If the movie is even fairly accurate, it appears that Hemingway's fourth wife may have also given up her career to take care of Hemingway. But, Hemingway eventually suffered greatly from depression and the electroshock therapy that was common at that time, so perhaps it was just toward the very end that she took care of him.

I half hope that McLain will round out books from Hemingway's wives' perspectives, but then another part loved Circling the Sun so much that I hope she highlights another lesser known female from history!


message 7: by Booknblues (last edited Aug 15, 2018 08:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Booknblues | 6841 comments Nicole R wrote: "It is very interesting that his first wife was the one who appeared the most willing to give him the life he thought he wanted—a home life and a family. But, his next three wives were all journalis..."

I read a memoir True At First Light: A Fictional Memoir which he wrote when he was with his 4th wife...He is always a bit of a schmuck, but he was doing a safari in Africa. I know that they had a plane crash there and it caused him grave health problems the rest of his life.

It was a very interesting book, I found his description of Africa at the time (1950s) fascinating, but to my modern sensibility the killing of African animals grates on my soul and his chauvinism is of course, apparent.


Theresa | 8325 comments Nicole R wrote: "It is very interesting that his first wife was the one who appeared the most willing to give him the life he thought he wanted—a home life and a family. But, his next three wives were all journalis..."

I plan on watching the Nicole Kidman movie as soon as I have some time. Good tip about Amazon Prime! I'm adding it to my viewing wishlist...

Did some quick research, and it looks like Mary Welsh, wife #4, did abandon her career on marriage, only writing again after he died in 1961. Also their marriage was rocky. There were I believe 2 separate crashes from which Hemingway never recovered, which in part kept the marriage going as he needed her.

Hemingway suffered from depression his entire life, perhaps other mental health illnesses that were never diagnosed or treated. While reading Love & Ruin, I had the thought that in many ways, Anthony Bourdain was a Hemingway of our times...plagued by demons, depression, addictions, yet having an utterly captivating and charming face to the world, a creative genius, bigger than life, unable to sustain marriages, ultimately taking his own life in a deliberate kno way an accident) way. If Bourdain had lived in the first part of the 20th Century, would he have been a big game hunter? Gone to war to sate an adrenaline need? Probably, because that was the norm.

Going forward, I am no longer judging his fiction writing just from Hemingway's personal love of trophy hunting and my dislike of his machismo legend. Rather I will give it another chance, now knowing there is much more feeding his writing. I may still hate it; who know?


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments For me, I have always known of Hemingway’s very serious depression (perhaps even bipolar? Who knows as it was not diagnosed), but honestly did not know of the machismo part of his personality until later! Even knowing his mental health struggles, it did not make me like his writing more! Lol. I keep saying I want to give it another chance now that I am older and wiser and know more about Hemingway’s life and am more aware of the significant of his time in Spain and other historical context, but I am so scarred by my college reading of For Whom the Bell Tolls that I do not know if I can try again! Lol.

I thought that McLain did a good job of showing that side of Hemingway as well. She could have easily just shown the stereotypical womanizing side of Hemingway, but she really illustrated his struggles and insecurities. And, she revealed them slowly just as Gellhorn likely became aware of them.

I thought it was impressive that McLain was able to make me love Gellhorn (who in real life had a reputation for being pretty difficult) and have so much sympathy for Hemingway despite his actions toward Gellhorn. I thought McLain captures this aspect much better than the movie did.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Love your review and I'm enjoying all the dialogue here. I'm learning much about these books I have not yet read but would like to. Its interesting to read everyone's opinions and thoughts.


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