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Love and Ruin Bets On...

Love and Ruin

May 2018

To me, Paula McLain is a gold standard writer of historical fiction. THE PARIS WIFE, with its brilliant account of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, brought readers a new look at the writer through the eyes of a woman he loved. Her latest book, LOVE AND RUIN, gives us another look at a wife of Hemingway as here she explores the life of his third wife, Martha Gellhorn.

Paula never thought she would write about Hemingway again, but as she shares, “I had a crazily vivid and powerful dream. I was fishing with Hemingway on his boat, the Pilar, and Martha Gellhorn was there, hand-feeding a marlin that had leapt from the sea. The next morning, still gripped by the dream and feeling it was some sort of sign,” she started researching Gellhorn, who she knew surprisingly little about. The more she read, the more she wanted to tell her story --- not just as the wife of Hemingway, but also for the brilliant writer she was in her own right. And that she does.

We see Gellhorn’s passion for journalism, often against the dangers of war, and her need to tell the story. She was a very different wife from Hadley. Her role as a war correspondent clearly was carefully researched; one can feel the bombs crashing and the craters that are wedged into the earth as Gellhorn writes on. We feel the adrenalin rush that comes from her time overseas where so much is uncertain.

When she meets Hemingway, he already is a legend. His world is big, and his life is brilliant. Gellhorn stands in awe of him, as much as she battles with him. Their love is torrid and passionate.

While I was a huge fan of both THE PARIS WIFE and CIRCLING THE SUN (her novel about Beryl Markham), LOVE AND RUIN is Paula’s best. There is something about the writing that feels richer and more atmospheric, and you know that is saying something considering these other two books. Paula has made me want to reread so many Hemingway titles, as well as delve into Gellhorn’s writing, which I have overlooked. Gellhorn, like Hemingway, died by suicide. Knowing what I now know about her, I could see her taking the end of her life into her own hands.

Book groups with love this book, as it has so many rich themes to discuss. Just bravo!

Love and Ruin
by Paula McLain