I love Ernest Hemingway. That’s probably something you should know about me. I love his writing so much that I’ve been savoring it, because I never want to run out of new things to read. First I read A Farewell To Arms – to this day one of my favorite novels of all time. Then The Sun Also Rises. Loved it. I’ve reread these two novels many times. Then I read The Old Man and the Sea. I didn’t like it as much as the other two, but still effective. And that’s it. That’s all I’ve allowed myself to read for ten years. It’s ridiculous. And it stops…well, soon. But first, I picked up this book: a fictional account of the beginnings and endings of all four of Mr. Hemingway’s marriages.
It is written in four parts (around 80 pages each), one for each wife: Hadley (my favorite), Pauline (nickname:Fife, as in Pfeiffer), Martha, and Mary. Before reading this book, I was only familiar with details from his marriage to Hadley and the transition into Pauline, so I did learn quite a bit from this book. Each section jumps back and forth from the beginning of each relationship to the end, and many times they overlap one another (Hemingway was never known for his fidelity 😕). It had to be tough to decide what vignettes to include for each wife that showed why they married and also why they parted, but I feel that the author did a great job capturing the right moments.
Hadley was his first love, who he met when he was 21. They had a son together and lived for most of their marriage in Paris. It was there Hadley and Ernest became acquainted with Pauline Pfeiffer and her sister. Pauline (who everyone called Fife apparently), became fast friends with the pair, and slowly fell in love with Ernest. The affair went on awhile with Ernest still married to Hadley, but finally they divorced and he married Pauline. They lived happily together for many years, mostly in the Florida keys, and had two sons. Ernest went back to working as a war correspondent during this period. He met his next wife, Martha Gellhorn, near his home in Florida, but convinced her to become a war correspondent as well (she was a writer herself). In Spain they began their love affair, and Pauline was pissed when she found out. She is the only of his wives to really hold spite for him, or so they say. He married Martha, and basically did the same thing to her, meeting Mary Welsh while working as a correspondent in London (Mary was also married at the time), and it was Mary who was with him in the end of his life.
While this book is highly fictionalized (no one knows exactly what was said and exactly what happened in all of the details), it is also drawn from historical accounts, letters, and telegrams, so everything in the book is at least in the gist of what actually occurred. Ernest Hemingway had a big life, there are no doubts about that, and I loved seeing little snipits of it through the lens of the women in his life.
Overall I really enjoyed the book, it was hard to put down at times (I say that because I had to put it down, mommy’s need their sleep!). I love reading about Hemingway’s life. He lived in a different time, that’s for sure, and it makes me wonder how he would have liked the modern world. He wouldn’t have, probably. I have another fictionalized book about him called Hemingway’s Boat. I may be reading that soon, as well as Z. the novel about Zelda Fitzgerald (who was only in one scene of this book, but was alluded to a few other times). Why do the books I read always add so many other books to my to-read pile?! I’m trying to shrink it, but it keeps growing the more I read!! #readerproblems 😅