Love and Ruin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

What a heartbreaking doozy of a novel. What a stunning and strong portrait of a modern woman. Paula McLain weaves Martha Gellhorn's story with the action packed adventures of Finland, Spain, and D-Day to name a few. Some of the passages really resonated with me; I appreciate McLain's attention to detail towards battles I had no idea about. Knowing that this journalist was knee deep in front line action, while still concerned about her domestic life really threw her struggles into the spotlight. As Tillie asks, "Can we have it all?" Martha proved that a woman could have it all, as long as it was everything she truly wanted. 


PS. Ernest Hemingway is in the novel too, but he's just a 'footnote' in my review.
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Historical fiction based upon the life of Marry Gellhorn, the author.  Most of the novel focused on her relationship and marriage to Ernest Hemingway,  but there is also quite a bit written about her life as a war correspondent and her own   novels.   

Interesting read on a compelling w9nan's life.
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I love Paula McLain's books. I have read The Paris Wife several times; it is one of my top ten favorite books, I liked Circling the Sun, about Beryl Markham, much better than Markham's own book, West With the Night. 
McClain's newest book, Love and Ruin, is equally as good. It tells the story of the romance and marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, Marty Gellhorn. I loved the first person narrative told from Marty's point of view. It made her story more intimate.There were a few chapters that switched to Hemingway's first person point of view, but I didn't like them as well. I felt  that this was Marty's story of her life and their life, so his thoughts were a bit intrusive.
McClain's descriptions, whether of war or nature, are always very vivid. Some sentences, I thought, echoed Hemingway's style.
I learned a lot about a remarkable woman I had not heard of before.
This is a definite "yes" for your TBR pile!
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Paula McLain writes well researched, detailed historical fiction, told through in the voice of woman in prominent places and situations. I enjoyed both "The Paris Wife" and "Circling the Sun" (my personal favorite of her books), and feel that McLain really writes emotion well. She nails the everyday emotions that each of her main character are facing and their inner dialogue is always exceptionally well done and realistically portrayed. 

Her third book returns to the Hemingway wives."Love and Ruin" is the story of Martha Gellhorn-beautiful, educated, writer, and top notch war correspondent...who also happened to be Ernest Hemingway's third wife. And that's what this story focuses on, Gellhorn's disaster of a relationship and marriage to Ernest Hemingway. 

McLain is an excellent writer-this book is beautifully told and is almost prose like in it's descriptions. The angst and emotions that plague Gellhorn as she works tirelessly as a war journalism while enraging her husband at "being left alone" ring true and heartbreaking. But they also come off as needy and ridiculous compared to the end notes that the writer makes about Martha Gellhorn, who was a true pioneer fro woman in journalism. I wish this story had been more Marty Gellhorn and less Mrs. Hemingway. 

While this may be my least favorite of McLain's books, it is a solid, well written, and well researched book and I will be looking forward to her next one.
 3.5 Stars
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I did not expect this book to unfold as it did, but that is not at all a bad thing! The story of Martha Gellhorn and her life with Hemingway is sad, but also so incredibly compelling. 

This book starts from Gellhorn's beginnings as a writer and her relationship with her family. I loved Gellhorn's passion and desire to write. She meets a married Hemingway and the spark between them is more than palpable. 

The continued story of their dysfunctional relationship and is at times so heartbreaking to read, yet I could not put this book down. McLain does an excellent job with this story. I was heartbroken to come to the end of the story! I wished for more pages! 

I loved Marty's independence and her insight as she gathered the stories of war to share with far away readers. 

I highly recommend Love and Ruin and I would like to thank Random House Publishing - Ballantine Books for this ARC.
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I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Love & Ruin, having loved Paula McClain's books The Paris Wife and Circling The Sun.  Her latest, about Martha Gellhorn, did not disappoint one bit.  The author has such an amazing ability to bring these fantastic historical women back to life and make them incredibly relatable.  Martha Gellhorn especially spoke to me; her desire to live a married but independent life and still keep her job and travel - it felt like something we modern women still deal with every day still in 2018.  How do you nurture a relationship but hold on to who you are?  I just loved every bit of this book, and all Gellhorn's war stories were beyond fascinating.  Every time I finish a Paula McClain novel I have a list of ten new books I want to read because of topics and characters and places she has introduced me to through her engrossing books.  I want her to write a novel about every interesting female historical figure!  I will definitely be recommending this to all my friends, and I can't wait to see what the author writes next!
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McLain brings a literary icon to the minds of women who grew up outside of her time of influence and may not have come across her name otherwise. She made me fall in love with Gellhorn, and understand the challenges she would have had to overcome to trailblaze for female authors everywhere. She faced down incredible difficulties and stood strong against losing her career in her famous husband's. This book is absolutely a must read! I can't recommend it enough!
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"Love and Ruin" is a five star book as far as readability but four stars in the Paula McLain  body of work. I've liked all her novels but "Circling the Sun" was my favorite. "Love and Ruin" takes on Ernest Hemingway's third marriage, and one of his most contentious, matched closely as he was to a woman of equal ambition and guts. Martha Gellhorn traveled to war zones at a time when few women did and her work was appreciated on it's own merits despite her sex. Sex had a lot to do with her relationship with Hemingway,  a lot of passion and strife--the strife mostly coming from his jealousy of her writing and the praise she earned--but their relationship was real and deep. Martha loved Hemingway's kids and they loved her back.

McLain channels the guts of Gellhorn's writing into her descriptions of her war reportage. The novel ends with the finish of her marriage to Hemingway, but Gellhorn worked until the 1990s when her vision was so poor she could not read he own manuscripts.

Fans of McLain will not be disappointed in "Love and Ruin."  I look forward to another novel from her about a remarkable woman outside the Hemingway realm.
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Thank you to #paulamclain, #randomhouse, and #netgalley for my advanced ecopy of Love and Ruin.

Love and Ruin is categorized as historical fiction, but it is that genre of historical fiction becoming so popular lately, historical fiction based on real lives.  In this case, it is the story of the relationship of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, who would become his third wife.  I became interested in this story for two reasons:  
1.  I know little about Ernest Hemingway except the MOST publicized facts; suicide, writings, 4 marriages, etc..  I wanted to know more about him and what might make such strong-willed, strong-minded women bind themselves to him.
2.  Sadly, all I knew about Martha Gellhorn was that she was a serious journalist and his Hemingway's third wife.  I was very curious to figure out how there might be anything romantic about a story that you know starts as an affair and ends with one (or more).

Love and Ruin delivered on both accounts.  Paula McLain manages to capture both the powerful pull of Hemingway's personality, and the very things about him that would push a person to the point of fleeing him just to breathe, free from his intensity.  Interestingly, from MY perspective, this book ended up not really being romantic.  You see two people who are like-minded in many ways (something Hemingway tended to be attracted to in all his wives), being pulled together in a time of world-crisis, WWII, and their relationship being brought to ruins just as the war was coming to its conclusion, a very interesting metaphor for their relationship.

I could see how ahead-of-her-time Gellhorn was in her obvious struggle to juggle her desire for career with her desire to be a wife and possible mother.  I could see that Paula McLain obviously had much admiration for Gellhorn, and for good reason. The woman was brave, strong, and willing to put her very life on the line to put a message out there that the world needed to hear.  

Wen we read a book, it is nearly impossible to remove all our own personal beliefs and values as we do so.  In my case, I believe that is why I did not find any romance to Love and Ruin.  Hemingway was married to his second wife with two young children when Gellhorn made the decision to pursue the relationship with Hemingway.  While, not uncommon, I don't find it admirable, nor in most cases wise.  As intelligent as Gellhorn obviously was, she had evidence that Hemingway could not be satisfied by any one woman, as there was clearly a hole inside himself he didn't know how to fill.  On top of that serious lapse in judgement, she almost immediately resented being associated in any way with him as a writer.  What did she think would happen if she married the most successful writer of his time?  I did empathize with her struggle and anguish as their relationship crumbled. Regardless of how I feel about how their relationship started, I felt sorrow for her knowing the rejection she must have felt to come to the understanding that he loved an idea of her, not the reality.

Paula McLain did a wonderful job describing battle-torn areas and the horrors of war that Gellhorn witnessed throughout the book as well as the gorgeous Carribbean locations visited.  She also did a great job conveying the inner battle Gellhorn must have faced when trying to decide how much of her own desires to give up in order to be the wife Hemingway seemingly needed.  

I find that for a historical fiction book based on non-fiction characters to be successful, it must make me want to come away from the book learning more and more about the subjects.  Love and Ruin achieved that in spades.
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McLain’s newest novel features the story of Martha Gellhorn, a lifelong war correspondent and the third wife of Ernest Hemingway.  It opens with Martha’s life before meeting Hemingway when she worked as an aspiring novelist and sometimes journalist.  After her father’s death, Martha, her mother, and her brother visited Key West as to not celebrate their first Christmas without the family patriarch at home in St. Louis.  The family stumbles upon Hemingway nearly upon arrival.  Martha, who’s novel just debuted to great success, is amazed to come across a writer who she admired and learn that he was impressed with her work.

In the months that follow, Hemingway encourages Martha in her writing.  When the chance to go to Spain as a correspondent comes up, not only does Hemingway go, he also arranged for Martha to go.  While there, the two become close.  The relationship does not end when they return home and Hemingway eventually leaves his second wife for Martha.  While those early years while waiting for his divorce were often idyllic as the pair created their Cuban home, after the marriage occurred times turned tumultuous.  Where the Martha and Hemingway too similar?  Did those similarities impact their marriage?  Those are just two of the questions to novel addresses.

In addition to Martha’s relationship with Hemingway, detail is paid to her other family relationships.  Martha often goes to her mother for advice.  She also becomes a second mother to Hemingway’s three boys: Jack (nicknamed Bum) from his first marriage and Patrick and Gregory from his second.  She loves them and they adored her.  As World War II began, Martha worried about the draft-aged Bum and used her status as a war correspondent to visit him while he was on duty multiple times.  Martha’s friendships with several other fellow correspondents were also addressed during her time in Spain, Norway, Britain, and Italy.

I truly enjoyed reading about Martha’s life, even when things got rocky.  She had such a determined nature to be her own person that it was hard not to.  And that’s what made Martha a trailblazer for women.  In terms of McLain’s writing, as with her previous books, it was written in the first person and featured vivid descriptions.  The plot continued to thicken as layers were added to the story. Often, these layers made readers feel the same pain or elation Martha did.  As in her last two novels, McLain succeeds in bringing these often forgotten women to light, as she did with Hadley Richardson in The Paris Wife and Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun.  I will mention that both Martha and Hadley were wives of Hemingway (third and first, respectively), so in a way their biographical novels could be considered companion novels.  One does not have to read one to understand another, but Hadley is mentioned frequently in Love and Ruin and her son Bum is a supporting character in this novel.

I was provided this book for review from NetGalley. I'll be posing a review of the novel on my blog in April and will add the links then..
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After McClain’s The Paris Wife and Naomi Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway I thought very little of Martha Gellhorn. After reading Love and Ruin however I have more respect for her and for the life she carved out for herself.  This is a beautifully written book that covers Gellhorn’s years with Hemingway, with all the love she had for him and the ruin she faced when she left him. Bravo to a smart, brave woman who triumphed when she could have let herself be ruined.
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I didn't know anything about Ernest Heminway other than writer, cats, and Key West before picking up this book, which is the story of his third wife, Martha Gelhorn. I did look her up online and read more about her and Ernest, who was a much more morose figure than I knew at first. I think it's fascinating to read behind the scenes stuff of these larger than life characters who traveled the world during wartime to write about it. The book is a bit slow at times which made it hard to read, but it has incredibly developed characters.
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The story of the famous war correspondent Martha Gellhorn before, during, and after her passionate and painful marriage to Ernest Hemmingway.   She was a truly amazing, courageous, brilliant woman who did not whine about being held back because of her gender.  Instead, she chose to work harder and better to forge ahead in a man’s profession in a man’s world.  Her relationship with Hemmingway was a two-edged sword in that it began with him supporting and encouraging her in her writing.  Conversely, she always worked in his shadow and when she remained true to herself and followed her passion for war correspondence he became insulting, angry, and intolerant of her career.  Nevertheless, she was a remarkable woman who went on to pursue her literary dreams.  Despite her broken heart, she went on to live a very full, rewarding life.  She continued her illustrious career.  She eventually did remarry.  Remarkably, she remained close to her stepchildren from both marriages which is, in itself, a wonderful testament to her character and her heart.  And meeting Martha’s mother  was a treat!  Every girl with a dream needs a mother like hers.  An engrossing read.
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Love and Ruin covers the romance and break up of another wife of Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, a female war correspondent that started an affair with Hemingway when they were covering the Spanish Civil War. The book started a bit slow for me, and I was irritated with the character of Martha, a woman who wanted to do something meaningful with her life, but had a penchant for falling for married men. Her first novel was not successful, and her parents disapproved of her lifestyle. After her father's death, Martha, her mother, and her brother visited Key West where they met Ernest Hemingway, and he begins a mentoring relationship with her that turns to passion when they go to Spain. Martha's love of war reporting is also brought to life in Spain, and she finds her second passion - that of telling people's stories. Both write novels about their experience in Spain, but Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" rockets him to superstar status. Martha's book is panned by the critics. I enjoyed reading about her internal struggle with wanting more than having children and being a rich, famous man's wife. Although they both had their faults, I admired Martha for following her reporting passion and continuing to pursue her writing career. I also enjoyed reading about Cuba, and their life there. After reading this book I really feel the need to read some Hemingway novels, too! Thank you to Net Galley for letting me read an advanced reader copy.
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Though Martha Gellhorn would hate for me to start a review of this book with Hemingway, I must start with Hemingway. You see, he’s always showing up in my life.

I read A Farewell to Arms when I was in high school, then The Sun Also Rises when I was at university. Both were pleasure reads, not assigned, and the latter caught my attention. I liked its spare prose, its spare characters, and the thrill of the adventure. But I didn’t seek out Hemingway again.

Instead, Hemingway found me. When I’m not traveling I live in Sun Valley, Idaho. Hemingway spent bits of his life in my mountain town, ultimately ending his life there in 1961. He’s buried in the local cemetery, and as you might imagine, his name pops up in all sorts of places.

I picked up Love and Ruin because sometimes Hemingway can't be ignored.

And I’m so happy I did. First, I love Paula McLain’s prose. It’s beautiful. Beyond being descriptive and lovely to read, there were moments of the story when I physically felt the impact of what she was saying. I highlighted. I wrote down quotes. I thought “wow, that is a stunning line.” And I love books that do that to me.

Second, Marta Gellhorn. What a bad ass this woman was. She was Hemingway’s third wife and the only one to leave him. But beyond Hemingway—because she was so over Hemingway for the remainder of her life after the divorce—Gellhorn was a celebrated and impressive war correspondent her entire life. She wrote stories of every day people. She snuck onto a hospital ship and was the only woman, and only correspondent, on the beach during D Day in World War II.

This book, which I adored, was my fictional entry point into the very real Marty Gellhorn. I can’t wait to learn more about her, read her work, and find inspiration in her unique path through life.
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Returning to the life and loves of Ernest Hemingway in his guests, Paula McClain focuses on the only woman who ever left him in this well-told tale of his wartime romance and marriage to Martha Gelhorn, as celebrated for her career as a globetrotting journalist as he was as a novelist. Both their love affair and their professional failures, triumphs and rivalry get equal space in this tender and passionate fictionalized biography; any woman who had ever had to choose between love and work well find this much more involving than the Paris Wife, though both reveal the author's true fascination is with Hemingway rather than either of his wives.
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Paula McClain knocks it out of the park yet again. I enjoy her historical fiction when she writes about a very successful, way-ahead-of-her-time strong female. In Circling the Sun, McClain writes about Beryl Markham with such eloquence and respect. I didn’t sense that as much with Martha Gellhorn in Love and Ruin. The story is fascinating; Gellhorn was an extremely courageous and fascinating woman. It may be due to my preconceived notions about Ernest Hemingway and his history of being self-centered. But, this is a book about their relationship, not her life history. This is the main difference between the stories of these two women; McClain chose a different angle from what I expected.
After completing the book and flipping back thru the numerous more-detailed events of Martha’s brushes with war and death, I realized that McClain hit a fine line; she portrayed the love Martha had for Hemingway in such a light that it revealed the burden he truly was on her. While he was pouting her absence, she was tempting death and documenting the tragedies of war so the world couldn’t remain in its safe space and ignore reality. This was especially true when Martha was one of the first journalists to report the existing conditions of Dachau.
Martha was greatly affected by her day-to-day work, but for the five years she was in a relationship with Hemingway, she wasn’t free to fully devote herself to her career.
Hemingway was and will always be a colorful, creative person who devoted so much to American literature. But his sun pales and is a bit pitiful when paired with someone as headstrong and independent as Martha Gellhorn.
(I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for making it available.)
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It only took me a few paragraphs into Love and Ruin to remember why I loved Paula McLain’s earlier novel The Paris Wife so much – her writing is so good, she convincingly recreates people we think we have read and know so much about, whose work we have read and studied and loved and hated. She brings them alive in a way only a brilliant writer of historical fiction can. But she isn’t just a writer of historical fiction, because her work is a narrative of real lives, retold through her own mind, after deep research of their lives.

Love and Ruin is the story of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, written in the first person from Gellhorn’s perspective, interspersed with some paragraphs from Hemingway’s perspective. Hemingway, beloved, reckless, exceptional, toxic Hemingway: we know so much about him through his writing, his legacy, his contemporaries, but of his wives we know less. Or of most of his wives we should say, as Martha Gellhorn went on to become one of the most successful and well-known US war correspondents, work that she was already doing before she married Hemingway. Love and Ruin tells us a story of their relationship, beautiful and ultimately heartbreakingly impossible.

Love and Ruin captures your heart... I found myself thinking about it while walking around, telling my other half about it while we were eating lunch, trying to explain why my mind was in Cuba, why I admired Gellhorn so much, why I needed to revisit For Whom The Bell Tolls... It’s a beautiful novel, even if you don’t give a toss about Hemingway. It’s a wonderful capture of a time when the world fell apart, again and again.

Love and Ruin will be published by Random House on May 1st, 2018. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy!
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It's rare that I give a three star review to a book I consider well-written.  I think there were two things that set me back; the first is that this almost reads at the rate of a family epic, which was unexpected, especially after reading McLain's earlier book, The Paris Wife.  The second aspect is that this book reaffirmed my feelings of disappointment in Hemingway.  Yes, I know his life and experiences made him the writer he was, but...
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Another hit from Paula McLain, once again bringing to life fascinating historical figures and places.
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