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Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

On July 15, 2014

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By Sophia Whitfield

Ernest Hemingway is one of the most admired American authors. His novels include A Farewell to Arms which was based on his experiences during World War I. His last work published before his death was The Old Man and the Sea. A journalist at heart he spent time reporting on the Spanish Civil War. Despite his success, under his confident persona lay a man unsure of his literary talent.

Hemingway married four times, each time taking a mistress while still married. The mistress later became his next wife. Wood takes us through each wife, Hemingway’s literary output during each marriage, his happiness, his desolation and his slow slip into depression hampered by his constant drinking.

Each wife is different; the serious Hadley who was older than Hemingway gave him stability in his early years and his first son. She was followed by society girl Pauline who Hemingway referred to as Fife. She gave him financial security and two more sons. Pauline edited Hemingway’s work constantly supporting him in his writing. Her marriage lasted longer than the first, but journalist Martha Gellhorn soon took Hemingway’s fancy. She was more removed than Pauline, not quite as besotted with Hemingway and keen to continue her much lauded career as a journalist. Martha was quickly replaced by another journalist Mary Welsh who remained with Hemingway into his twilight years, eventually becoming his widow.

There are mentions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda as the great authors of the time meet at literary soirees. Social gatherings were a constant especially when Hemingway was married to Pauline. Guests drank away the afternoons well into the evening as they were entertained with a bounty of food, drink and companionship. With servants to assist in the raising of children Pauline was able to dedicate her life, during and even after her marriage, to supporting a literary genius.

Throughout the book we learn of a troubled but interesting man. The reader is drawn to Hemingway much like women were.

You don’t have to know much about Hemingway to read this book. It is based on his life with fiction interspersed making it an enormously enjoyable read. I particularly found all the wives fascinating. The way each one dealt with Hemingway’s infidelity and genius. It is not surprising that Jude Law has snapped up film rights to this book. I look forward to Law’s interpretation on screen!

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