Ernest Hemingway was married four times, firstly to Hadley Richardson, then to Paula Pfieffer, Martha Gellhorn and lastly to Mary Welsh Hemingway. At the end of his life, despite his subsequent marriages and affairs, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
Paula McLain published The Paris Wife in 2011, and the book, which explores Hadley Richardson’s marriage to, and life in Paris with, Ernest Hemingway during the roaring 20s, was an instant success. The novel follows Hadley and Ernest in Paris as they befriend the ‘Lost Generation’, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, Ernest struggles to find his voice, and Hadley struggles, despite their great love, to find her place in the ‘hard-drinking, fast-living and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris’.
Images Via Penguin Random House
Last night, myself and Hilary attended an event at Penguin Random House for the release of Paula McLain’s new novel Love and Ruin, the much anticipated sequel to The Paris Wife, which deals this time with Martha Gellhorn, the pioneering journalist who was Hemingway’s third wife.
Image Via Hilary Schuhmacher
We sipped adorable cocktails while listening to the wonderful Paula McLain speak about the process of writing her new book, where the idea came from, and the amazing travels her writing career has taken her on thus far.
McLain explained that after The Paris Wife, she hadn’t intended to revisit Hemingway in her future writing, since the experience of writing it (mostly in a Cleveland Starbucks, the farthest place on the planet, she quipped, from a Parisian cafe) had been so intensive and immersive. However, she had a dream in which she was on a fishing boat with Hemingway, and from behind she witnessed a blonde women placing food in the mouth of a marlin Hemingway had caught. When the women turned around and looked her in the eye, she recognized her immediately as Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s third wife. It would have been “spiritually dangerous”, she said, to have ignored this dream and not have listened to what it was telling her: that she had to write about Gellhorn, and her life with Hemingway in Madrid and Cuba throughout the Spanish Civil War.
It was inspiring to listen to McLain talk about the life of Martha Gellhorn, one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century, and her ballsey, adventurous nature which took her to so many incredible places, from the forefront of the Civil War in Spain, to being on the first boat to land and assist the injured on D-Day, to, despite her reluctance to indulge it, falling madly in love with and marrying Ernest Hemingway. McLain described the pioneering women of Gellhorn’s generation as ‘looking like Greta Garbo, looking great in slacks, not giving a damn what anybody thought of them,’ to which the fabulous older lady to my left turned to me conspiratorially and said, “I’m there.”
Image Via Hilary Schuhmacher
The evening was an absolute delight, as always is the case when listening to somebody speak about a topic on which they’re passionate, questions from the audience were intelligent and informed—one attendee inquired as to whether McLain had purposefully mirrored Hemingway’s pared back writing style—and interviewer Laura Brounstein of Random House was the ideal host, guiding the conversation skillfully while allowing McLain to speak at length about her process and experiences, commenting at one point that The Paris Wife felt like an historical novel in a way that Love and Ruin didn’t— Love and Ruin, though set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War in both Spain and Cuba, feels more charactercentric, and I am extremely excited to read it. I’m going on holidays on Friday and I will absolutely be taking my complimentary copy along for the ride!
Love and Ruin is available from Penguin Random House as of today!
—With thanks to Penguin Random House
Featured Image Via The Daily Beast