Love and Ruin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

Paula McLain is known for her amazing writing and this book is no different! It was written so beautifully and with so much poise!

The characters in this story had so much to offer and made the storyline that much better with everything they added.
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I did not enjoy this book enough to finish it. It to me was boring. I’m not really that interested in Hemingway so it just was not my kind of book. I’m very sorry. I am sure others will like it much better.
Thank you for the chance to read it though.
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This review has been completed as a thank you to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. Love and Ruin follows Martha Gellhorn who is known in history as the third wife of Ernest Hemmingway. A journalist at her core Gellhorn's story is one of passion and conviction. The experiences she had in her life are something out of a film for her personal story was larger than life. In reading this novel, I am tempted to examine her works and am glad I have been given an in-depth perspective to this woman who not only witnessed history, but was a part of it herself. The novel begins in 1937, and shows Gellhorn assessing her role as a journalist and the type of journalist she hopes to be. The central storyline, or relationship for me was the one Gellhorn had with herself. I enjoyed that aspect of the novel, and found her association with Hemmingway to be a bonus. Overall the  writing was impeccable and detailed. I felt as if I were experiencing these key moments in history, but experienced the leading character not as much as I would have liked. I would have liked to have learned more about this woman and her experience past Hemmingway. I guess it left me wanting more, and that is a pretty good place to be concerning historical fiction for these characters not only lived, but were apart of history itself. I recommend the novel for fans of Hemmingway, in-depth examinations of World War II, and of course Martha Gellhorn herself. I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars for its ability to keep me engaged and impeccable writing style.
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A wonderful tale of a fascinating life. McLain masterfully paints the larger world surrounding the protagonist without losing focus on the life she's telling us about. So often single-protagonist historical fiction loses clarity because an author uses too wide a lens to convey a sense of the times or too narrow of one to hone in on the character. This book is perfection though as Marty's life walks us through the beginning and mid 20th century from the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s through the Normandy invasion of 1944. 

It's impossible not to cheer her on when she doubts herself or to be amazed by the gumption and grit she personally has. The danger she submitted to in order to get her story out is admirable and it makes a lasting impression. Hemingway's treatment of her and his other wives highlights the opposite end of the spectrum: a great talent for understanding fictional people which does not translate well to real life relationships. 

At first I wondered why McLain chose to focus on this segment of Marty's life and not a part of it when she wasn't attached to Hemingway. These, however, are the formative years of Marty's life. In this time she finds her voice as both a writer and a reporter and makes a name for herself as both. She just happened to to that while involved with Hemingway; it's not because of him but his influence on her emotional state is a big factor in her growth.

As was with her life, her marriage with Hemingway was only part of the story. What I found most refreshing about the plot was that we are offered views of Marty in every piece of her life: as a daughter, an independent woman, a writer, a reporter, a wife, and a stepmother. All of these blended together round out this fascinating story of a very real woman with her own accomplished life. 

Note: I received a free Kindle edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher Random House Ballantine, and the author Paula McLain.
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I am a Paula McClain fan, as she is the one who originally turned me onto Ernest Hemingway's life and writings in her brilliant portrayal of Hadley in The Paris Wife. I thought McClain would never be able to top The Paris Wife in my heart, but with the release of Love and Ruin, that is exactly what she has done. I must say, however, that my opinion of the author himself has worsened. What a raw, honest picture of what the fascinating Martha Gellhorn must've endured as his wife. Thank you, NetGalley, for a chance to read this advance copy.
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While I thought the ending was interesting, the rest of the book didn't work for me. Not only did I not enjoy reading about Hemingway, I found quite a bit of the writing to be overly sappy. The parts with the war scenes were strong but were overshadowed by the rest of the story. I did have a hard time connecting with Marty and just didn't enjoy reading about Hemingway's appalling treatment of women and his lack of fidelity.
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3.5 stars.

At nearly 400 pages, I'm afraid this felt long-ish to me.  Not a fan of war stories except WW2, I probably should have skimmed  through the Spanish Civil War and the Finnish Russian war in the first half of the book.  I probably did skim the parts on Ernest Hemingway's second marriage to Paula, who he is leaving for our narrator, Martha Gellhorn.  No matter how romantic the adventures of Ernest and Martha may have been, I am not a fan of serial cheaters being seriously considered as husband material.  You know what they say:   "If he cheats WITH you, he will cheat ON you."  I couldn't buy Ernest as a romantic, knowing how many wives he ultimately had.  He actually was a little boy in need of constant attention and reassurance.  He was brash and brazen.  Sound like anyone else you know?  Yuk.

What kept me reading was that ultimately I came to like Martha for her independent thinking and having goals of her own, other than that of being his wife.  Also the fact that they were both writers working on different material, their struggles described in great detail, and the many different homes they had, was all interesting to me.   Then WW2 hit closer to home at about 75% in, and the ending was sad but a fine depiction of a woman with ambition, spirit, and intelligence.  The author had a great admiration for this woman, which is evident in the story telling.

My thanks to NetGalley and Ballentine Books.
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I found this an extremely interesting read as I knew nothing about Ernest Hemingway beyond the couple books I’ve read of his and his famous suicide. And I certainly have never heard of Martha Gellhorn. This is a fictional story of their real life relationship. She is his third wife and they met by chance in Key West. This follows their relationship from that point to seven years later when they have been married for five years and their relationship has completely crumbled and he is onto his next wife. She is a very independent woman for that era-1930s. She wants to become an author and is also extremely passionate about the Spanish War occurring at that time. She becomes a journalist and follows Ernest there, where they cover the war and start their affair. The only problem is she will always live under his enormous literary shadow.  It’s been awhile since he’s published anything and he starts writing and then publishes his famous For Whom the Bell Tolls. He’s flying high. Its a constant party with unending food and alcohol and celebrities. When she publishes her first novel it’s a flop and she is compared to him. Ernest, in a very self deprecating manner, tries to show if he helps her she will be a better author. She doesn’t want that. She wants to be appreciated for who she is. This, somewhat, starts the foreshadowing of what’s to come. I found it very interesting how the author portrays what is possibly going through his head that pulls him down into a black abyss. This book has actually made me want to read his other books and to also read some biographies of him. Sorry, Marty, this was suppose to be about your accomplishments. Side note: she did live a life of traveling all over the world, covering various wars and strife. She published many books, which I will keep in mind to look up.
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On a holiday with her mother and brother in Key West, young writer Martha Gellhorn has a chance encounter with Ernest Hemingway at a conch bar. They strike a conversation, and Martha and family are invited to the Hemingways’ property for an afternoon. It turns out that the Hemingways are fans of Gellhorn’s short story collection. A friendship is born out of mutual admiration and respect, and that eventually transitions to a full-blown romance while both are covering the happenings of the Spanish Civil War as war correspondents.

After the fall of Spain to Generalisimo Franco’s forces, Gellhorn and Hemingway meet in Havana. Hemingway is at an impasse with his current wife. Eventually, the divorce from his second wife comes through. By then, Gellhorn and Hemingway have been living under one roof for quite a while on a property in the periphery of Havana.

During the seven years of their marriage, their love goes through lots of ups and downs. They are frequently away, sometimes together, most times on their own. He, on holidays after finishing For Whom the Bells Toll, or playing spy, patrolling the Caribbean searching for U-boats; she, covering the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Winter War between Russia and Finland, the impending closure of the Burma Road during the conflict between China and Japan, and ultimately World War II, where she had the (serendipitous) distinction of being the only journalist (male or female) to witness D-day right at the battle front.

After reading Circling the Sun, a novel about the trailblazer horse trainer and aviator Beryl Markham, I was captivated. Not only I wanted to know more about Markham, but in me McLain gained a fan. I requested this ARC early when I saw this book listed by several reputed publications as one of the hottest releases this year. I have to say I am disappointed. In Circling the Sun, McLain made 1930s Kenya, its expatriates community, and Beryl Markham, come alive. She was a firecracker, inspiring, a pioneer. Martha Gellhorn was certainly all those things yet McLain could not paint her alike. Perhaps even though McLain is a fan, she didn’t fully understand Gellhorn’s motivations, her inner world.

In McLain’s portrayal, Martha Gellhorn, who narrated the story in first person—third person accounts, meant to capture Hemingway’s state of mind, also pepper the novel— came across as an insecure woman who didn’t feel whole alone, and who was afraid of the large shadow cast by Ernest Hemingway. I get that it must have been hard not to feel a little intimidated by a writer of that stature and larger-than-life personality, but it felt like she was jealous of his fame and couldn’t handle the comparisons. I also get that it must have been hard to see her work belittled by those comparisons and her personal appearance, as if she lacked talent and had gained a readership solely because of her association with Hemingway, but if her ego couldn’t handle the bruising why risk a relationship? Did they love each other? Maybe, but not even that sounds authentic in this novel.

The writing feels flat, stilted; it is not that it lacks literary images, it is that they are not vivid enough. To be fair, I have to admit that there were two moments when Paula McLain made me feel the magic of her earlier novel: first, when Gellhorn and Hemingway met; Hemingway came alive in full glory seen through the eyes of an infatuated young woman with a famed author. Alas it did not last. Second, there were sparks when Gellhorn met Hemingway’s kids for the first time. They came alive as well, but that magic did not last either. The war images, particularly on D-day, were disturbing but unfortunately did not contribute to form a whole picture of what she saw and how it affected her.

I have seen Love and Ruin being given almost five stars ratings on numerous reviews. It is possible that the novel didn’t specifically work for me as did for other people. I’ll be reading The Paris Wife because people have raved about that novel, but after that one I have to consider if I want to give Paula McLain another chance.

Disclaimer: I received from the publisher a free e-galley of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
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It seems like there are two stories being told here. One is of Martha Gellhorn, journalist, writer, noted war correspondent, and one is of Martha Gellhorn, mistress to and then wife of the very famous Ernest Hemingway, whose shadow she was in according to herself and reviewers of her books at the time. This book is told in the first person and so we are privvy to Marty's inner workings, her viewpoint, feelings, etc. It's really her story but only really covers the period during which she met and was involved with Hemingway.
The novel's coverage of the various wars and conflicts that Marty reported on were a high point for me. I'm not big on war novels but the raw emotion, the humanity, the reality of it were extremely well described.  I wish I knew how much of it was true and where the author got her information. She does not include sources or notes on this at the end. Marty was a real trailblazer, intelligent and brave and truly interested in telling the stories of those in the war zone.
So, then...why was she with Hemingway? Especially since he was married when they met (she had met his wife and their sons already) and she knew about his excesses and need for attention and to be surrounded by sycophants, although all of this got worse as he got older and more famous. That part was hard to read sometimes - frustrating I guess. It was a difficult relationship almost all of the time. 
I think the writing was excellent, the war coverage and historical aspects very interesting and real, and I did enjoy the book quite a bit.
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Paula McLain does a great job weaving true historical facts and turning them into a fascinating read.
This was the story of the love affair and marriage between Martha Gellhorn and Hemingway. She was a novelist, travel writer, and journalist who is considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century. She reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career. Unfortunately, she fell madly in love with Ernest Hemingway, whom we all know was a big jerk in real life (to put it kindly).
This is her story of her battles in life with herself (and her father), trying to be a writer, war correspondent, and her marriage; the biggest battle of them all.
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Ballantine Books and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Love and Ruin.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Knowing next to nothing about Ernest Hemingway's personal life besides his propensity for drink and women, I thought it would be intriguing to read this historical fiction about one of the women in his life.  Martha Gellhorn, a successful writer and correspondent in her own right, struggled to find her place in Hem's world.  His jealousy and possessiveness of Marty's time helped to unravel their sometimes tumultuous relationship, but it was really insecurity that ruined their love affair.

Previously unaware of Martha's place in the journalistic and literary world, I originally thought that Love and Ruin included a fictitious character in a realistic world.  The author does a good job of weaving a historical narrative with the real-life people who lived through the horrors of war.  Where the book falls short for me is with regards to the details, as Love and Ruin gets bogged down in the middle because of this.  Marty's life with Hemingway was only a small part of her total experiences and I would have liked to see the author get into more detail about her alone.  Love and Ruin was very readable, with an overall quick pace and well drawn characters.  Readers who are familiar with Hemingway and his personal life may get more out of this novel than those who are unaware of the nuances of this famous writer's life.
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This historical fiction is based on the real life marriage of Ernest Hemmingway and Martha Gellhorn (whose name tried to autocorrect as I wrote this….which is a travesty).

I’m not going to pretend that I knew all that much about Martha Gellhorn before diving into this book.  And while a fan of some of Hemingway’s work, I was more of a fan of his house in Key West overrun with six-toed cats.  This book paints a devastating picture of a woman trying to “have it all” with a tempestuous (insert another word for verbally abusive and jerkish) man considered a “genius” at the time.

Martha Gellhorn became one of the fiercest women reporters of wartime, embedding herself in with the Spanish Civil War.  She survived bombings, midnight raids, and even crossed borders by herself in a time when women weren’t exactly expected to that.  Even when forbidden to go over and cover D-Day, she snuck onto a hospital ship and was one of the first reporters on the scene of the devastating attack.

All that pales in comparison to her crazy war like marriage to Hemingway.  The book does a good job of showing Martha trying not to lose herself, even when faced with the love of her lifetime in Hemingway.    They met while he was still married, and she was still living at home.  It wasn’t until they were together in Spain covering the war that they began their affair.  Through the Spanish Civil War, life in Cuba, and his divorce, the book follows the years they were together and while they were apart.  It’s not a very flattering portrait of Hemingway, but it made me want to learn so much more about Gellhorn.  What an amazing woman who had one weakness which was Ernest and their life in Cuba.
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Love and Ruin by Paula McClain is the love story that existed between Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway. Gellhorn, a young writer, meets Hemingway and the attraction is immediate. They travel the world independently and together and ultimately marry. McLain's writing is beautiful and the story is insightful and exciting. A great read!
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Thank you to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review, "Love and Ruin"
by Paula McLain. A beautiful work of historical fiction! I truly enjoyed seeing how the story of Ernest and Martha played out. Such an interesting time period as well. Looking forward to reading more from Paula McLain in the future.
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Paula McClain does it again reaching into the twentieth century to find strong, independent women with compelling stories to tell. First came Hadley Richardson in The Paris Wife, then Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun. As much as I enjoyed both of those historical fiction novels, they pale in comparison to the story of Martha Gellhorn, a trailblazing war correspondent and Ernest Heminway's third wife.

I've read a number of books about the Spanish Civil War, but I felt the shelling, the deprivation  and the agonizing, heartbreaking defeat more cleanly here. As Spain was falling, Marty and Heminway fell in love. This is that story too. But her story is also the story the cataclysmic world events and what she reported on in the Winter War and D Day. Just loved how this book told her story and heart aches without diminishing her or the world events.
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3.5 stars

This was my first book by Paula McLain and it will not be my last.  I have seen other reviews stating that Love and Ruin don’t compare to Paris Wife or Circling the Sun, so I am more than anxious to set my eyes upon those books.

I waffled a bit with my rating because while I really enjoyed this book, I also found myself skimming over many parts.  I really loved Marty, she was a woman before her time.  I loved that she was strong and she knew what she wanted for herself; that in the end, she chose herself.  I understood her grief and loss, but she was just too much of a woman for Hemmingway to handle and she wasn’t going to let him hold her back.

I am not a big fan of the classics, so I have not read any of Hemmingway’s works and quite frankly, I don’t really know much of him as person.  But I’ve got to say, he seems like a real jerk.  I really did not care for him and just kept thinking that Marty was way too good for him.  

One of the other struggles I had was the very descriptive war scenes.  I know, its historical fiction, but like Marty, I wanted to human connection.  I found myself skimming through the war passages, which is why I ultimately decided on 3.5 stars.  The story of Marty Gellhorn is a good one, and I was completely captivated by her story.  

I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.
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In Love and Ruin, Paula McClain once again weaves effortless historical fiction, telling the story of Martha Gellhorn, a renowned war correspondent and Ernest Hemingway's third wife.  In McClain's hands, the tumult, horror, and atmosphere of the 1930s and 1940s come to life vividly through the story of two writers passionate about one another and their writing.  Gellhorn is a fascinating  character through whom to witness a world gone mad and to struggle to find her own place in the world, on her own terms and on her own two feet.  I loved this book, did not want it to end. The atmosphere, the crackling tension, and beautiful prose combined to create a book that I did not want to put down and that kept me up way past my bedtime.  A wonderful, wonderful story from a master of historical fiction.
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From the author of The Paris Wife, comes another novel about Ernest Hemmingway.  This time told through his third wife, Martha Gellhorn.  Martha is an author, who meets Hemmingway by accident while on a trip to Key West with her family.  She keeps in contact with him and decides to go over to Spain to cover the Spanish War.  Hemmingway is married to his second wife at this time during the time they first start their relationship.  Both Martha and Hemmingway are very independent people, their eventual marriage pretty much seems doomed from the start.  I loved this book as much as the Paris Wife.  However, one thing that bothered me was that Martha was portrayed as being lovesick and broken hearted with her split from Hemmingway.  From what I have read, she was the one who left to cover World War II without him and eventually ended their relationship.
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I was a big fan of "The Paris Wife" and I was very excited to read an advance copy of Paula's new novel, "Love and Ruin." I loved continuing to learn about Ernest Hemingway and his wives. I particularly loved this story surrounding Martha Gellhorn's life and work. Paula gives Martha a voice and I found Martha alluring, resilient and very strong in the face of a more than eccentric and difficult relationship with Ernest. Paula also provides a perspective on World War II that I had not read about before, a journalistic perspective.
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