Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway and his wives but no-one writes about them better than Paula McLain, whose new novel is about Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. I thought that this author’s debut novel, The Paris Wife, was a wonderful book; it told the story of the young Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. The author beautifully captured Hadley’s voice. When I started Love and Ruin, I wondered if Ms. McLain would be able to again capture the essence of an historical character…she does!
Martha Gellhorn and Hemingway initially meet in Florida. They become closer when traveling to Spain during the Civil War, a war which is hearbreakingly portrayed in the novel. Hemingway and Gellhorn travel together to Cuba, Florida, Europe during WWII, Utah, etc. with each locale coming alive. World events unfurl in their presence.
This is also the story of a relationship; what is it like to be in the orbit of a truly charismatic person? Is that enough? How does one maintain a sense of identity? Gellhorn, a writer and reporter of merit, struggles as a relationship of equals becomes less so. There is love and yes, ruin, in the coming together and apart of these two historical personages. The reader is a witness to the joys and struggles of this couple.
I highly recommend Love and Ruin. It is one of the finest historical novels that I have read. Thanks for this one NetGalley! It was special.
The Recovering is, simply. an excellent non-fiction title. The author, Leslie Jamison, also wrote The Empathy Diaries which was well received.
The Recovering is a hybrid book. In parts, the author shares her own history of alcohol abuse and her candid thoughts about drinking, her efforts to stop and her life during these years. At times, these sections read like a novel; the reader hopes for Ms. Jamison and keeps turning the pages to learn how she fares.
In addition, the author, who has a PhD, explores her thesis subject; she looks at the life stories of many authors who faced or did not face their issues with alcoholism; for example, there are sections on Raymond Carver and Jean Rhys. There is also information about many treatment centers (some historical), types of treatment and attitudes towards addiction over the years.
If you would like to understand more about alcoholism, read this graceful and moving book. Highly recommended.
Some other opinions:
“A sprawling, compelling, fiercely ambitious book…Its publication represents the most significant new addition to the canon in more than a decade…Jamison’s writing throughout is spectacularly evocative and sensuous…She thinks with elegant precision, cutting through the whiskey-soaked myths…Jamison is interested in something else: the possibility that sobriety can form its own kind of legend, no less electric, and more generative in the end.”―Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic
“Masterful…beautifully honest…Essential reading…The most comprehensive study of the relationship between writing and alcohol that I have read, or know about…The prose is clean and clear and a pleasure to read, utterly without pretension. Although the subject is dark, Jamison has managed to write an often very funny page turner…In short, The Recovering is terrific, and if you’re interested in the relationship between artists and addiction, you must read it.”―Clancy Martin, Bookforum
“Magnificent and genuinely moving. This is that rare addiction memoir that gets better after sobriety takes hold.”―Dwight Garner, New York Times
“A remarkable feat…Jamison is a bracingly smart writer; her sentences wind and snake, at turns breathless and tense…Instead of solving the mystery of why she drank, she does something worthier, digging underneath the big emptiness that lives inside every addict to find something profound.”―Sam Lansky, Time