Book Review

Love and Ruin


Paula McLain is the current darling of those who adore historical fiction.  Do I adore historical fiction?  I’m not sure.  There are two parts here – history and fiction.  So, what happens when the history just isn’t terribly interesting?

I’ve actually felt that way about some of Ms. McLain’s books.  The Paris Wife was a novelty and, in that, wonderful.  But Circling the Sun didn’t do as much for me; I simply wasn’t as interested in its subject, Beryl Markham, who was the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now we have Love and Ruin, in which Ms. McLain returns to the tried and true realm of Ernest Hemingway and his wives.  This one, Martha Gellhorn, is a fascinating character in her own right.  A war correspondent, she did what she could on Hemingway’s coattails, married and divorced him, and only then finally found her name.

I found Love and Ruin to be a book about love and loss, about the plight of a woman before  her time, about ambition.

If you like reading about Hemingway, about war, about women who grapple with their own needs versus those of a domineering husband, you may like this book better than I did.  I was frustrated by what Ms. McLain chose to present about Martha.  She was a strong and talented woman.  If I’d heard more about that, I might have been more interested in the book.

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