Love and Ruin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

This book could easily have been a slam dunk for me - two celebrated and iconic historical characters falling in and out of love against the backdrop of World War II. Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway live huge lives, working and traveling the world in some of the most turbulent times in modern history. Both of their stars are rising; Gellhorn as an author and war correspondent and Hemingway at the peak of his career as the celebrated author of "For Whom The Bell Tolls." Gellhorn wants love and a fulfilling career. Hemingway wants love and a sycophant wife. We have world conflict. We have romantic conflict. We have the Americas, Europe, Asia, and a tropical love nest in Cuba. And yet, if you asked me to describe this book in one word, it would be "bland."

McLain writes very well and I thought she did a nice job of creating the atmosphere of a world being swept into war in the 30's and 40's. I just could not connect at all with Gellhorn. Gellhorn is the narrator and she explains what she is seeing and how she is feeling, but for the most part, it did not translate into any emotional affinity. I had little sense of her real personality. Without that engagement with the main character, I felt only a cursory interest in the story. By contrast, McLain's Beryl Markham character in "Circling the Sun" had me so hooked that I fell down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, reading everything I could get my hands on about Markham after I finished McLain's book.

For me, this was a solid 3-star. I liked it, but didn't love it - something vital that glues the reader to the page was missing.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for an ARC of this novel. My review, however, is based on the hardcover version.
Was this review helpful?
Those of us who read "The Paris Wife" will welcome another chapter in Ernest Hemingway's life.  Martha Gellhorn, a female journalist eager to prove herself among her male cohorts, is covering the horror of the Spanish Civil War and runs into Ernest Hemingway.  She is captivated by the married author as is he.    They maintain their respective careers until the publishing of his best-selling "For Whom The Bell Tolls" when conflict sets in.  Gellhorn is an extremely independent and adventurous woman but is confronted with having to subdue her own identity when Hemingway's takes the forefront.
What's especially interesting about this book is that it encourages the reader to read more about Martha Gellhorn.  She was a remarkable woman at a time when men covered war and reported on it.  The places where Martha went, and. often, through unconventional means, made the reader feel the loss and destruction of the wars that she covered.  The personal story was beautifully interwoven with the world events that made it even more compelling.
Was this review helpful?
I don't have an adventurous bone in my body so I couldn't identify with Martha at all; but  I admired her spunk and determination.  She was naive, though, if she really thought Ernest was interested in her only as a friend.  

The writing is excellent as expected from McLain, with detailed descriptions and insights.  One almost forgets that this is fiction.  It seems so much that Paula McLain was a fly on the wall observing all that happened.

McLain is definitely a master of historical fiction.  I wonder who will catch her interest for her next book.
Was this review helpful?
What a wonderful look into the life of one of Hemingway's wives, Martha Gelhorn. I loved traveling with them and meeting other notable people of times. As a writer, there was wise advice about our work, acknowledging (or ignoring reviews), and how to wrangle a story. McLain also showcases, through both Hemingway and Gelhorn,  the feelings and frustrations, the very hard work, of writing. 

Several observations struck me that are relevant to today as it was in Gelhorn's time: 
" 'But it's hard to die for ideas, isn't it?' 'It's hard to die any way. ... At least our ideas are the right ones.' " 
This comment gets to the very core of our political divide and contentious issues today, in my opinion. Holding fast to one's own ideas as the ONLY way, the only right way, is closed-minded and detrimental to our ability to discuss, collaborate, compromise, and come to the best possible solutions together. 

Another quote I appreciated:
" 'That's the main thing they say about journalism, you know, ... don't trust reportage. Don't let other people tell you what happened, not if you can help it. You have to take it all in with your own senses. To write what you see, and what you feel.' ... That stood me still for a moment. 'What about being objective?' 'Don't try. There's no such thing.' " 

Everything we hear, read, watch, is through a filter, whether someone else's or our own. Everything in the media, on YouTube, TV, the radio, in every news outlet, etc. is presented through another's eyes and life experiences and political, religious, life views. Nothing is objective. We would be wise to be mindful of that in all the "news" and information we take in every day. Paula McLain, and her subject, Martha Gelhorn, implore us to think critically.  

LOVE AND RUIN is a well-written, compelling, historical novel. Fascinating in looking back and in its relevance to today.
Was this review helpful?
Very much enjoyed this latest book by Paula McLain. Gellhorn was a brilliant journalist covering war torn Europe for major magazines and a published novelist when she met and became the third wife of Ernest Hemingway. Her respectable and established career received the Yoko Ono treatment from the world of publishing. In book reviews she found her writing compared to her husband's work, often not favorably. In spite of all her accomplishments, she had to fight to remain relevant. Eventually, Hemingway tired of her ambition and began to compete with her for assignments. Placing her in an untenable position she was forced to make a choice. Considering Hemingway's track record as a husband she probably made the only choice a woman of substance could. Excellent descriptions what it was like to cover Europe in war time and of life in Cuba before the revolution.
Was this review helpful?
I am a fan of historical fiction and of Paula McLain’s so I was eager to pick up her latest book "Love and Ruin", which follows Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway through such places as Spain, China, and Cuba, during the beginning of WWII. Gellhorn is a young up-and-coming writer and reporter when she meets Hemingway in a bar on a trip to Key West with her family. 

I know this book is based on their actual lives but I wasn’t that familiar with the details of their affair, marriage, and ultimate divorce. I should not have been surprised however because the reader becomes very familiar with Hemingway’s behavior and patterns in "The Paris Wife," where he leaves his first wife for his second wife. I, as well as Gellhorn, should have seen it coming with Hemingway too. She is first his lover as he cheats on his second wife and then she becomes his third wife, which you guessed it: he cheats on with another woman who becomes his fourth (and final) wife. Despite the history and inevitability of it all, I was rooting for them. Although this story pivots around Gellhorn and Hemingway’s tumultuous love story, it also follows Gellhorn’s very successful career as a war correspondent. She carved her way into a field that didn’t have other women nor knew what to do with one when she showed up on the front lines. 

“All the men we met… seemed to look at me with astonishment, as if a wedding cake had turned up, or a gazelle.”

Gellhorn had to try to escape the shadow of her husband’s very public and accomplished career, especially after he published "For Whom the Bell Tolls", based on their time covering the war in Madrid. 

“That Ernest could eclipse me, large as any sun, without even trying.”

I was inspired by Gellhorn’s desire to have a career AND a marriage in the 1940’s and how she was willing to sacrifice her marriage to her convictions while trying to realize her goals and dreams. She desperately wanted to cover the war from the front lines so that America and its allies would join forces to defeat Mussolini and Hitler. At this time Hemingway is in a writing slump; add severe depression combined with alcoholism, and he’s in no state to write nor be a good husband. He’s desperate to keep her from returning to her work.

“...when you fell in love with me you must also have been in love with my wings. Love them now. Love me. Love me, and let me go.”

Although this is not a happy book, it is masterfully written and very engaging. I applaud McLain and eagerly await her next one. I highly recommend both "Love and Ruin", and "The Paris Wife" to all the bibliophiles out there.
Was this review helpful?
Although my personal favorite by this author is her novel called Circling the Sun about aviatrix Beryl Markham, LOVE AND RUIN by Paula McLain is another great work of historical fiction featuring a strong woman. Here, McLain has returned to exploring the life of a wife of Ernest Hemingway. Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway's third wife, was a well-known war correspondent in her own right who landed with the troops at Omaha Beach. A decade apart in age, Hemingway and Gellhorn meet in Key West in 1936, carry on a romance in Spain during that Civil War, marry and move to Cuba in the early 1940s, and ultimately deal with the tension between Gellhorn's pursuit of her own career versus support of her husband's: "How, how, how can it work? … You're the sun and I'm the moon. You're iron and I'm steel.  We can't bend and we can't change." McLain, as always, does an excellent job with both inner dialogue and descriptive prose conjuring the time period and the novel's various settings. LOVE AND RUIN is likely to be very popular with book groups. It was chosen as a LibraryReads Selection for May and received starred reviews from both Booklist and Library Journal. Add this to your summer reading list!

Links in live post:
Was this review helpful?
I didn't know anything about Martha Gellhorn before I read this interesting historical fiction book my McClain. Unfortunately, the 'ruin' part hurtles at you for most of the book, Hemingway has a very strong sense of character and is battling his own demons while Gellhorn tries to remain her own woman.  It spans a fairly short time, from the Spanish Civil War to Omaha Beach.
Was this review helpful?
Really enjoyed this! I liked that Martha Gellhorn was her own person and refused to let Ernest “clip her wings” and make her stay with him. While it was hard to read about some of her experiences during wartime, it still added to the appeal of the book. You could sense Martha’s passion for her work and her sheer determination to not stay in Ernest’s shadow.
Was this review helpful?
I have enjoyed reading several other Paula McLain books (The Paris Wife & Circling the Sun), so I thought I would give this a try.. As in Ms. McLain's other books, I really felt I was able to understand what made the main characters "tick." Martha Gelhorn was a journalist who felt driven to tell the story of people's lives during war conflicts.  Her relationship with Ernest Hemingway began during the Spanish Civil War.  What worked in war, did not work so well in peace.  While Ernest was able to write one of his best known novels while  at home in Cuba, Martha felt compelled to leave Cuba when WWII broke out. I thought the author did an exceptional job creating a sense of place and also delving into the psyche of Gelhorn and Hemingway.

I appreciated the opportunity from the publisher and NetGalley to read this book.
Was this review helpful?
Wonderful book! 
Paula McLain gives an accurate historical perspective and makes the people come alive as you read.
Martha Gelhorn was a truly remarkable person - a world traveling war correspondent for 60 years, with a gift for seeing the personal aspect of how war affects the everyday life of average people.   She knew Eleanor Roosevelt, who had a great influence on her.
Gelhorn was a hard drinking, strong woman, who was more than a match for Ernest Hemingway, as his third wife and a prolific writer.  
McLain's book inspired me to order a copy of Gelhorn's novel "Liane". I also watched the HBO movie, "Hemingway & Gelhorn" after reading "Love & Ruin", because I couldn't  get the characters out of my mind.  
Highly recommended reading!
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book. 

Another hit for me. Maybe not quite as good as CIRCLING THE SUN but close enough to receive 5 stars from me. This is a fictionalized account of the relationship of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway. She was his third wife whom he treated as badly as he had the first two. She, however, did not allow Hemingway to totally sidetrack her own life and career. She was a strong woman who fearlessly pursued her career as a war correspondent. 

This is a well written, lyrical book that I could read forever. It feels like her other books in its construct but that's not bothering me yet.
Was this review helpful?
Nice to learn about the third wife of Hemingway. Thanks for the review copy. I enjoyed both this one and The Paris Wife. Would love to see Hemingway’s Cuban house.
Was this review helpful?
I was pleased to be able to read Paula McClain’s Love and Ruin about Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gelhorn and Ernest Hemingway. I had a love/hate relationship with this book. When reading about Martha’s adventures as a correspondent, I was in awe of her courage to get “the story” behind enemy lines during a time when journalists were men. It was difficult to read about the relationship between Martha and Ernest. At times boring, and I found myself wanting the writer to “get on with it.”  It is definitely a good read when focused on Martha’s journalist adventures.
Was this review helpful?
I  really struggled with rating this one. I did love it and I loved that it has some aspects of Historical Fiction that revolves around wars I haven't read anything about (The Spanish Civil War). It also detailed a lot of Cuba when Spainards were moving here (basically exiled) and before we were banned from coming due to Communism and  Castro in the JFK era.
I however wish that it detailed the wars more. I zipped through the chapters that centered around Ernest and Martha's experiences there. I slowed down a bit when it was revolving more around their relationship or issues with them not revolving war times. I am a big lover of historical fiction and not so much of a romance or chick lit reader so that was my issue here. However, it was beautifully written and I did really like it. I knew that this book had many different aspects and catered to different genres so I knew I would be in for reading more than just the history part of it so I can't really complain. If I just want the war experiences Marty lived through, I'll just have to read one of her actual books she wrote about it.
Martha somewhat annoyed me. I don't have sympthy for people who get involved with married men, and definitely not for Matha who did it twice knowingly.  Knowing that she was putting herself through this mess made me dislike her and lose some respect for her. Knowing that this is based on a true story made me feel even more torn torn about my thoughts and feelings towards her. I know she ends up being a supreme writer and is very inspirational but I couldn't feel for her due to this fact. I also know about Hemingway's womanzing ways. Is it bad that I feel like Martha gets what's coming for her as Hemingway ends up with Mary Welsh? Although I highly disagreed with their choices, it doesn't make either of them any less of writers.  I also can't knock the writer for this either because I knew all of this coming in. I just wish that the writer may have shown more of Marty's more positive attributes which may have made me feel more towards the characters.
WARNING: A TINY SPOILER (ONLY IF YOU ARE NOT AWARE OF HEMINGWAY AND MARTY'S LIFE) : Oddly enough, I didn't feel sorry for Marty until Hemingway spitefully took her job from her. I knew that her adventures were her saving grace as well as he did obviously and felt bad when she was told her husband would be taking her place as corespondent. This too me was brutal and sad and it just reinforced my dislike for Hemingway as a person. I also know how Hemingway falls in love while in London so this part also stung for me even though I knew it was coming and their marriage was unsalvageable long before this part. It seemed as if I had finally felt a little connection and sympathy towards Marty at this part so that was a success as well as I was set to believe I disliked her from the beginning.
The book for me was slow. I suffered getting through parts where I was not interested and zipped through others. I felt like it was long but then the epilogue threw in so much information and went through so much time that it felt rushed but there's little of their relationship left in this part so it makes sense as their relationship was to be the main focus of the book even though it seemed it wasn't always.
The author's note about Marty after Hemingway made me feel more connected and her more likable and I wish that she had thrown more attributes like this during the story. Thinking about it, Marty struggled to keep people from comparing her to Hemingway and for people to recognize her as an individual and I feel like this book did the opposite by really just highlighting her life with Hemingway and throwing in her great accomplishments as an after thought.
I do recommend the book. I learned a lot and got a glimpse of Hemingway and Marty's relationship as well. It however lacked something for me that won't make me remember it for long.
Was this review helpful?
Martha Gellhorn, a struggling writer in her late 20s, and Ernest Hemingway find love amidst war in the Spanish Civil War both are tested by their literary success....and though their story is complete will find this tale entirely believable and will even wish that it were true. Ms. McLain brings the people and conflict and beauty of Spain to life through Martha's eyes and imagines a love story that makes complete sense with Hemingway's history and love of adventure. As Martha tries to forge her own literary path, she is forced to decide between her love for Hemingway, already a bright star and burning brighter....and the career she also loves. Martha's decision will condemn one of these loves. Beautiful to read, a complete pleasure to imagine the excitement and fear and courage, you will find yourself routing for Martha, no matter the direction she turns.
Was this review helpful?
Paula McClain did an excellent job, I loved this book! I high recommend this to everyone, the era, the characters, it was excellent!
Was this review helpful?
I liked Paula McLain's first book and looked forward to hearing more about Hemingway through this book.  The story didn't hold my interest as well as "The Paris Wife" as I felt somewhat distant from Martha Gelhorn as she was portrayed.  At times, the narrative felt like a report of events.  I think that McLain captured the jealousy and competition between Hemingway and Gelhorn that eventually caused their relationship to end.  I also found the sections about Cuba and Gelhorn's role in creating Hemingway's home there interesting.  I just wish that I had been able to connect with Gelhorn on an emotional level.
Was this review helpful?
Martha Gellhorn is an independent, ambitious, adventurous young woman, who, on a family trip to Key West, meets the incredibly famous and charismatic Ernest Hemingway. He treats her family to a tour of his island and captivates Martha, an aspiring author herself.  Hemingway convinces her to become a foreign correspondent covering the Spanish revolution.  And he convinces her against her better judgement, to become his mistress. Their romance and inevitable divorce is told in first person by both Martha and Ernest. This is an interesting look into the lives of this famous couple and a great jumping off place that inspires me to learn more about the characters and history of these two famous personalities.
Was this review helpful?
Paula McLain has done it again with another beautiful novel on one of Ernest Hemingway's wives. I was immediately engrossed in Martha Gellhorn's live. I admired her ambition and desire to be in dangerous situations where she felt the world was changing, and she needed to write home to America about it. You felt the intensity of the Spanish Civil War. I could almost hear the shells whizzing by. Ernest Hemingway is always made out to be this powerful character who is brave, intelligent and talented. I think he found as close to his equal as he was going to get when he met Martha Gellhorn, and as their love affair started in Spain. McLain does a fantastic job of making the reader fall in love with the Gellhorn/Hemingway relationship, even while reminding you of the instability of the world dynamics during WWII. You can't help but feel the connection between those two characters, even when you know it wasn't going to last. McLain writes historical fiction like no other.
Was this review helpful?