Mrs. Hemingway, Naomi Wood

Mrs. HemingwayI 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 😅

E.

Gone With the Wind – A Reading Journal, Part IV

This post comes to you as a series of thoughts by bullet point. Spoilers abound.

-Ashley actually does like her? I apparently misread things from the beginning. Even after that confrontation in the orchard, she is still so wild about him. I’ve been harboring that she didn’t truly love him, but now having thought of him above everyone else except herself for so many years now, maybe it is more than just infatuation. Is his side of things only lust? Or does he truly admire her? I may have to go back and reread some of their scenes at the beginning.

-I can’t believe she stole another husband out from under someone, and this time from her own sister! Scarlett is a heartless cutthroat bitch, let’s just be honest.

-Clearly Scarlett is breaking some huge stereotypes in this section by becoming a business owner as a woman. Although it is too bad that Scarlett let’s her keen business sense trump her morality. She understands the treatment of the convicts at her mills are wrong, and yet the bottom line is all she cares about at the end of the day.

-I love the term ‘scandalized’.

-I like how through most of this section Scarlett and Rhett are pretty well established friends. They are very clearly cut by the same cloth, and Rhett has known that all along. If only Scarlett had a brain! Their conversations are one of my favorite things to read. And my, Rhett has so much patience with her!

-This novel has me intrigued. I have been reading online about the civil war, and I am interested in finding some good, readable, non-fiction as well as more fiction about the American Civil War era. Anyone have suggestions on what I should add to my TBR?

-Some of these I wrote before finishing part four, but now that I have: 😱🤗😁 They’ve finally done it! And what a sweet moment the proposal was. Yes, Rhett is probably a horrible person, but he knew from the beginning that Scarlett married Frank for his money, out of necessity, for survival. With that in mind I don’t feel Rhett was a scoundrel for proposing only days after her husband’s death. I frigging love Rhett Butler. He reminds me of Mr. Rochester from my favorite classic (Jane Eyre) in many ways.

Not so many details this time, I can’t wait to finish so I can reflect on the book as a whole.

E.

The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left BehindI have to say, I was not expecting to love this book. Like it maybe, or more likely to be disappointed halfway through and feel obligated to finish it. It is not a perfect book by any means, and yet here I sit having finished the novel (in two days), and I am temporarily at a loss for words.

The Girl You Left Behind is about two women: One living in a German occupied town in France in WWI, the other a mourning widow in modern London. Both of them have lost the men they loved; one is off fighting a war with no word if he is dead or alive, the other died suddenly much too young.

The first part of the book is dedicated to Sophie, the Frenchwoman whose town has been occupied by Germans in World War I. Her husband, who is now off fighting in the war, was a painter. He had painted a portrait of Sophie in their happier days, and it now hung in her family’s hotel, reminding Sophie that she wasn’t always a skeletal being of fear and hunger. When the Germans commandeer the hotel, having Sophie and her sister cook for them every night, the painting catches the eye of the Kommandant, a man feared by the villagers.

Later we are confronted with a jolting change in time. Suddenly we are in England in modern times and introduced to Liv, who is now somehow in possession of the painting. She is a widow, struggling to move on, and clings to the painting as an emotional support. When she finally meets a man she thinks she could fall in love with, she learns he works for a company that restores paintings stolen in wartime to the families they belong to, and that her painting, The Girl You Left Behind, is being claimed by the family of the man who originally painted it.

This novel is two in one: a historical fiction account of what it was like to live in German occupied territory during WWI and the horrors that brings with it, and a modern court case driven thriller/mystery in the second half. In the beginning I wasn’t sure how I liked how lopsided it seemed to be…you never meet the present day characters until around halfway through the book, and then closer to the end it flips back and forth again a few times, but somehow it works.

I was reading the first half of Gone With the Wind (about the American Civil War) while listening to this novel on audio, and I think the wartime stories had a greater effect on me in both novels because of that. Both were terrible, bloody wars and it was difficult at times to read about them. It is quite graphic as it details the horrors of war…not gore from the front lines, but the starvation, pure fear, and destruction of a way of life that existed for those left behind.

*some spoilers in the following paragraph*

The modern piece wasn’t quite as good. To me it felt a lot more formulaic and bordered on unrealistic at times. Would Liv really have blatantly dug her heels in on the matter of keeping her painting without even considering the possibility of giving it back to the rightful family at all? I feel like there would probably have been moments of doubt whether she was doing the right thing, espcecially as those around her began to question it (and when she completely cut out Paul without even pretending to listen to what he had to say seemed odd to me, as they had really spent a lot of time together up to that point). Also how was Liv actually paying for everything? I feel like it was super improbable that she’d be able to get as far as she did financially from the spot she was in at the beginning (who would give her a second mortgage with so little money in the bank and presumably terrible credit). Why did Moe suddenly decide she wanted some space from her? And right when Liv needed her resilience and friendship the most? Because it made the dramatic timing of the plot right, that’s why. It was a little disappointing being able to see the blueprints behind the novel as I read, but those are my only complaints! Overall it was still a very good book and I will probably read it again one day.

My favorite character was Moe. Not only did she serve as the quirky silly friend, but she was just such a character! I could imagine her so clearly in my mind, and yet she was always surprising me. I loved how she came back into Liv’s life at the right moment and was able to bring her back to life a little bit, just by being there.

I would definitely recommend this book to a friend, as it was recommended to me. I have to say I enjoyed this book much more than Me Before You, and it gives me hope that Jojo Moyes has written other good books I’d enjoy. Any suggestions on what I should read next??

E.