Love and Ruin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

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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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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