Love and Ruin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Paula McLain has once again piqued my interest in Ernest Hemingway’s personal life – and, once again, I found myself fascinated by the life of the central character, Martha Gellhorn. In The Paris Wife, Ms. McLain focused on his first wife, and in Love and Ruin, she focused on his third wife.

And, see what I’m doing here, without even meaning to? I’m referring to both women in terms of their marital relationship with Hemingway. And, this is in many ways emblematic of what was happening to Ms. Gellhorn – being treated as if her primary role in life was as Hemingway’s wife. I thought it was sad, but realistic, that when her book was published, one of the main articles supposedly about it focused on her affair with Hemingway, rather than on the merits of her work.

This book was striking in how much it pointed out the problems that working women face(d) – then and ever since. When Hemingway was pushing her to get pregnant, it was clear that another child would not affect his life – he’d just do what he wanted and it would up to her to manage. And, it was clear that that would put an end to her professional travels.

This book focuses completely on the period during which she was involved with Hemingway. After I read a little more about her, though, I think that her life after Hemingway sounds fascinating as well! Maybe even more so, since she was able to pursue her journalism without his trying to hinder her.

One other thing I really liked about the book – I didn’t feel that it portrayed her as a saint. I’ve now read enough about Hemingway to be pretty convinced that he would not be a person I’d want to be involved with! But, it’s not all one way, and I don’t think the book tried to make us think that.

A solid 4 star read. I enjoyed it very much.
Was this review helpful?
I love Paula McLain's writing style. While there were parts of this book that I loved, it felt more factual and journalistic than Paris Wife so I didn't feel as emotionally invested. I also was not as interested in the war aspects of the story, which is a personal bias. It was a great story and I'm glad I read it.
Was this review helpful?
I have enjoyed two other books I have read by Paula McLain Circling the Sun and the Paris Wife and knew I would like this one as well! The author has a wonderful way of blending the history with the story of the characters. I always enjoy learning something while being entertained and that was definitely the case here. The biggest draw for me in this book was the character of Martha Gellhorn. What a character she was. I can only imagine the draw of Hemmingway to have attracted so many people to him, including her. Midway through this book I had to stop reading to look up Gellhorn's accomplishments. Wow. I appreciate the fact that Hemmingway, while defining her in some ways, was not the end of her story. I loved how she found and reported on the human side of the story, and to bear witness,  in the wars and lives she covered. This style of writing gave the public a reason to care and that I think is what fueled her as much as being in a room full of reporters in the thick of things. Gellhorn was such a smart - whip person, and I am so glad McLain wrote about her so as I could learn about her and her legacy.
Was this review helpful?
As a determined, smart, and independent young woman, Martha Gellhorn ventured out on her own to follow her dreams and become a writer. Starting with the Spanish Civil War in 1937, she is drawn to the stories of average people and devastatingly young soldiers. She is starstruck upon meeting and befriending none other than Ernest Hemingway and knows at that moment her life will never be the same. After years of travel, writing and the rollercoaster of emotions that goes along with being the third wife of Hemingway, Martha feels she is slowly melting away into the background that is his life. When she can no longer define her work or their marriage she turns to her love of journalism and goes to Europe at the worst possible moment to become the only woman at Normandy on D-Day and one of the first to report from Dachau after the camp was liberated. The unprecedented work of Martha Gellhorn, combined with her great passion for the great writer is told beautifully by author Paula McLain. Just as I felt with her telling of Hemingway’s first wife (The Paris Wife) this controversial genius had met his match with Martha and I devoured every single page of their stormy romance. Highly recommend this fantastic work of historical fiction - a must read this summer!
Was this review helpful?
Another great historical fiction from Paula McLain! I loved the return of Ernest Hemingway and the story of his tumultuous relationship with Martha Gellhorn. If you read The Paris Wife and enjoyed it, then get your hands on this novel! While I enjoyed The Paris Wife, Love and Ruin exceeded my expectations. Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn meet in this installment and we follow their relationship through the years. The author included years of important historical events but it was not overwhelming. In fact, I learned a lot and appreciated the historical backstory as it relates to their love story and who they were as individuals. This novel takes you from Missouri to New York and eventually to Madrid, Finland, China, Cuba, Key West, Paris, London, and more. What a delight it was to travel the world in this novel! This is a fantastic summer read. For me, this was ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars. This is my favorite Paula McLain book yet! Thank you @randomhouse for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This is the second book I've read by Paula McLain. I did not really enjoy reading The Paris Wife, and I've been avoiding Circling the Sun for that reason. I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley for an honest review, and I actually enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't an amazing, life changing book (note the 3 star rating), but the characterization of Martha Gellhorn pulled me in. She was a fascinating woman. Because of this book and The Paris Wife, I've come to the conclusion that Ernest Hemingway was a royal ass. I totally understand that these books are works of fiction and could portray the author's biases. He just seems like an unnecessarily complicated, selfish ass. That's a good character portrayal on the author's part to make me have that opinion. Maybe I'll give Circling the Sun a try now.
Was this review helpful?