For lovers of historical fiction, Love and Ruin is a terrific book that not only keeps you turning pages but necessitates google searches to learn more about Martha Gellhorn, her writing and her tempestuous relationship with Ernest Hemingway. If you loved reading The Paris Wife, the tale of Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley, this is a book for you. It detailed his marriage to a strong women who despite her courage and success seemed to be dwarfed in Hemingway’s shadow by his selfish personality and his success. Thanks to my kids for this mother’s day gift which I was keen to read before meeting Paula McLain, for the second time, at the Grimsby Author Series (see my post about meeting her in 2015 here!
I had no idea of the strength, courage and tenacity of Martha Gellhorn. She was a feisty, female war correspondent in a time when women stayed home and had children. Sadly, she may be best known for her role as wife of Ernest yet she remarkably lived a mile from the front during the Spanish Civil War and even hid in a hospital ship bathroom to witness the Normandy landings during World War II!
The novel describes Martha and Ernest meeting in a Key West bar. He was married at the time but became involved with Martha and her family. Martha later obtained fake credentials and met Ernest in Spain after a very difficult journey into the country. She covered the day to day impacts and faces of the war. From their she gained a foothold in the role of war correspondent as she fell in love with the incorrigible Hemingway who was then married to his second of four wives.
The couple wrote together in their home in Cuba yet Ernest had to be the centre of attention. Martha was the first and only wife to leave Hemingway which she did after 4 years of marriage. It was interesting to learn, via research, that she continued reporting into her eighties, ending her career after the US invasion of Panama in 1989. Sadly she committed suicide (via cyanide) in 1998 to end her struggles with blindness and ovarian cancer with liver mets.
Paula McLain writes about strong women – Hadley Hemingway in The Paris Wife, Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun and now Martha Gelhorn in Love and Ruin. She researches women with remarkable lives and weaves engaging stories through history. Watch for a future post where I discuss meeting Paula, at the Grimsby Author Series and describe her enthusiasm and excitement for her writing and research.
As a lover of historical fiction, her books have been not only entertaining but educational. They draw a reader in quickly and are difficult to put down. McLain’s books explore amazing women and provide a jumping off point to learn more about these characters!