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Love and Ruin
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Archive: Other Books > Love and Ruin by Paula MacLaine - 5 stars

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 9371 comments Wow - Gorgeously written, and five full stars, this is the story of journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn, who was also the paramour and third wife to Ernest Hemingway. As I thought about the review, I was thinking that Martha the central character would have hated to have gotten acclaim or notice due to her relationship with Hemingway - she would have wanted to be celebrated in her own right. Its hard not to notice the eclipse of Hemingway, and she was caught in that tremendously - his light. And struggled to find her own. I hope my review will do her and the book justice and not eclipse her by the thoughts and history of Hemmigway, which also shines brightly.

Now you guys know I hate to give spoilers of any kind, as I want the book to unfold for you in a full and total experience. But what I will say is this. As encapsulated by the title love and ruin, as independent as Martha is, and she is her own woman, her love for Hemingway was at the center of her life. Did her intense immense love ruin her? Possibly and probably. But its a great gift to have a love like that. She was a woman before her time, trying to figure out how to be married to a great man, and one with dark moods and brilliance that define a character and dynamics - and balance that with her own needs and her own self. Not just her writing, but her very being was at stake. The entire book Martha and her heart was pitted against her love for him. Would she choose herself or choose him - and sadly there wasn't often room for both.

The writing on the war(s) were heartbreaking too, and that was at the center of what pulled on the heartstrings. Another conflict of hers. Her heart was grandly outstretched to others and it feels that was at the core of her writing.

A word or two on Hemingway. I loved the authors first book, the Paris Wife, and loved the title character Hadley. Paula Maclain makes these women come to life. But also depicts how hard it is to be with a man that is charming, brilliant, romantic - he is the sun. But also with unmeetable needs, drinking, dark moods, possibly bi-polar, and shifting romantic allegiances. He is described as loving too much - and probably, Martha may have truly been his best match. Undoubtably his strengths and perceptions are at the heart of his writing, as of hers. But he was unable to truly see the needs of the "other" as a competing consideration as his own. Not that he didn't want success and independent spirit for his women. He did. He just simply couldn't. This book captures him well, and you can see the trace of his writing and hers as interwoven through. I think it was a delight to read on numerous levels, even though the emotions and the war were equally hard. Because it was gorgeous written and the themes are ones we wrestle with today. All of them. Beautifully done.

*I didn't put this in the espionage folder, because I felt it was really not at all a thrust of the book, barely even a theme. But for two years, Ernst Hemingway would secretly use his personal boat the Pilar off the coast of Cuba, as an intelligencer and sometimes to thwart danger. He had that as a part of his personal resume in the war effort. I found that interesting. As I've said, he and Martha were a lot alike. True soulmates to me. Sometimes soulmates are not enough.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments It is interesting that you describe them as true soulmates whose differences ultimately were too much for them to overcome. I would have alternatively said that they were NOT true soulmates and those differences that drove them apart were evidence of that.

Regardless, they certainly had an all-encompassing and passionate romance, but I don't think it ruined Gellhorn. My god, look at everything she accomplished in her lifetime! I think her ability to prioritize herself and her career goals over her love of Hemingway is ultimately what saved her from being ruined though it was a heart-wrenching decision.

I did some reading up on her after this, especially about her next husband and the son she adopted. I think she was a restless person who had trouble committing to much other than her career, even her own child.

I really loved this book. I learned so much about the war that I had not known about before and really felt like I got insight to true American literary history with both Gellhorn and Hemingway.

I can't wait to see what this author comes out with next!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Absolutely love your review, Amy! I can't wait to read this and have been waiting to hear your thoughts. Hemingway was such a complicated man in real life that I cannot imagine having been married to him. But this romance sounds intriguing.


message 4: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8429 comments Great review, as always ;)-I believe I have this and The Paris Wife on my TBR list-Hemingway has always intrigued me, with all his problems(the drinking, the mental state-I do believe he was b-polar, but that's just me)and yet what a romancing rogue! I have to get to this book soon!


Theresa | 8411 comments Glad you too enjoyed this, Amy, and gave it 5 Stars! Paula McLain has become one of my absolutely favorite authors given how much I loved both The Paris Wife and Love & Ruin.

There may be spoilers for some in the discussion below.

What an incredible woman Gellhorn was! I agree that there was a restlessness in her, but I also think that her genius, her gifts, made it nearly impossible for her to commit to someone the way a spouse during those times was expected to commit. She was driven, and that drive was not one that can co-exist with spousal expectations. Think about how her first long term relationship was with a married man who would remain married until his wife died, and her second was with Hemingway who was married at the time and during much of their time together. It seemed to me that once Hemingway was divorced and they married, their relationship started to unravel.

I don't think Gellhorn's love for Hemingway ruined her. If anything I think his love -- or was it merely infatuation? -- came very close to ruining her. Nor do I believe they were soulmates. Powerfully attracted to each other - yes, for sure. But soulmates? I do not think Hemingway was sufficiently open as a person to having one - was basically in capable. I think Hadley, Pauline or his 4th wife, Mary, were better fits since they all did not challenge him, but were committed to creating an environment in which he could write and essentially be a creative genius.

I really thought that McLain did a great job here of showing us Gellhorn herself as she found her footing to become one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th Century. She didn't just show us the 2nd wife of Ernest Hemingway.


Booknblues | 6871 comments I've finished Beautiful Exiles and posted my review.

I don't want to say too much, but thought to perhaps address a little of the soulmates perspective. Writing was the center of both of their lives, but Hemingway needed a quiet place to write and Gelhorn's best writing came with action and especially war.

I hope someone else is up to reading both. I will most likely start reading Love and Ruin sometime in September.

I find Hemingway to be a fascinating character, but one for all of his romances who seems not to connect well or ultimately understand women. His representation of them in his books is his weakest point.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I have Beautiful Exiles on hold at the library and definitely plan to read both!


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments Theresa, excellent points and very well stated. You summed up nicely many of my impressions as well. I particularly like how you say the her love for Hemingway didn’t ruin her but his love for her almost did!

And I do not even know that he truly loved her. I think he admired and respected her, was certainly attracted to her, but it seemed more like he loved the idea of being with someone adventurous and a professional partner then couldn’t deal with those aspects in every day life.

It is all very interesting. And, unfortunately, not uncommon. I feel like you see it repeated every day on Hollywood. Those, Hollywood actors (for the most part) are pale imitations of the greatness that was Gellhorn and Hemingway.


Theresa | 8411 comments Nicole R wrote: "Theresa, excellent points and very well stated. You summed up nicely many of my impressions as well. I particularly like how you say the her love for Hemingway didn’t ruin her but his love for her .
o not even know that he truly loved her. I think he admired and respected her, was certainly attracted to her, but it seemed more like he loved the idea of being with someone adventurous and a professional partner then couldn’t deal with those aspects in every day life.
.."


Thank you, Nicole! And what you go on to say is also spot on.

Hemingway needed excitement to feed his creative muse... and lust ... or so it seems. And when he was 'at rest' , all had to fall into familiar compartments... wife, children, friends, homes, vacations, everything. I found it fascinating how much a creature of habit Hemingway seemed to be. Gellhorn from the first page was anything but that.

As to your last point, that is across professions and creative arts ... from gaming to publishing (Harlequin publishes more women writers of suspense znd espionage than any publisher, and all considered as romance first not thriller, and most are better written than the mainstream boys like Silva), science, kaw, etc.


Theresa | 8411 comments Nicole R wrote: "I have Beautiful Exiles on hold at the library and definitely plan to read both!"

Not available in ebook from NYPL, but will definitely get it at some point to read.


Booknblues | 6871 comments Anyone in this discussion interested, Nicole R. and I are going to read both books and compare and contrast and discuss. We would love to have others join in.


message 12: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 9371 comments I agree that your thoughts were excellent and thought provoking Theresa. I by the way, adored Circling the Sun, and it made my top ten last year.

The reason I thought they were alike, was separate from the mental illness piece. At heart they were both writers and understood that in a particular way. They even wrote similarly. She was well matched for him because she understood things the other three couldn’t. He truly loved her for her fierce independence. And she matched his passionate level of commitment. Plus, they have been 12 more together and understood things and seen things that others could never. That is why to me they were spectacularly matched. Now of course it’s been along time since I read the Paris wife, and I can’t comment on Pauline or Mary. But it just felt to me like this match made sense even if it ultimately unraveled and didn’t work. Doesn’t mean they weren’t 1/2 of each other in someway. True soulmate doesn’t always mean it works out. To me it means and it is capable of attraction that at all costs you’ll do anything to try to see if you can make work. What a shame that mental illness gets in the way.


Ladyslott | 1880 comments I'm reading Love and Ruin now, about 1/3 way through. I own Beautiful Exiles and will read it after I finish L&R. I am so far behind in my reading this year - selling a home, looking for a home, finding a home moving out and getting ready to move in is taking all my time.


Booknblues | 6871 comments Ladyslott wrote: "I'm reading Love and Ruin now, about 1/3 way through. I own Beautiful Exiles and will read it after I finish L&R. I am so far behind in my reading this year - selling a home, looking for a home, fi..."

Oh fun. It should be a good conversation. I just started a book and hope to read Overstory and then I will read Love and Ruin.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Booknblues wrote: "Anyone in this discussion interested, Nicole R. and I are going to read both books and compare and contrast and discuss. We would love to have others join in."

I had to figure out my month.:) I've been wanting to read both so count me in on this.


Booknblues | 6871 comments Rachel wrote: "Booknblues wrote: "Anyone in this discussion interested, Nicole R. and I are going to read both books and compare and contrast and discuss. We would love to have others join in."

I had to figure o..."


Will do.


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