Love and Ruin: A Novel
When Martha Gellhorn vacations in Key West with her mother and brother, she hopes to overcome some of the grief she feels over her father’s recent death. What she finds is a relief of sorts–a fortuitous meeting with Ernest Hemingway, her literary idol, who flatters her by revealing he read and enjoyed her first novel. Always seeking new adventures, Martha follows Hemingway to Spain with the goal of writing about the Spanish Civil War. Their reporting work leads to a love affair as intense, and destructive, as the war that unfolds around them over the next few years. While Hemingway writes the best novel of his life while they’re together, Martha finds her own place as a respected war correspondent–but her frequent absences strain her new marriage. Volatile, needy, and petulant as a child, Hemingway seems hell-bent on killing the independence she prizes. As World War II rages, Martha must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to hold on to the man she once adored.
Gellhorn, Hemingway’s third wife, is a literary force in her own right, and her courage, brazenness, and constant thirst for adventure make her a true heroine. McClain gives fresh, vibrant life to this historical figure, and she imbues the novel with a palpable sense of dread. Hemingway is a myth; but he is also a man, a difficult one besides, and it’s impossible to read very far into Love and Ruin without wanting to scream at Martha–Run, fast and far, and don’t look back.
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