It only took me a few paragraphs into Love and Ruin to remember why I loved Paula McLain’s earlier novel The Paris Wife so much – her writing is so good, she convincingly recreates people we think we have read and know so much about, whose work we have read and studied and loved and hated. She brings them alive in a way only a brilliant writer of historical fiction can. But she isn’t just a writer of historical fiction, because her work is a narrative of real lives, retold through her own mind, after deep research of their lives.
Love and Ruin is the story of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, written in the first person from Gellhorn’s perspective, interspersed with some paragraphs from Hemingway’s perspective. Hemingway, beloved, reckless, exceptional, toxic Hemingway: we know so much about him through his writing, his legacy, his contemporaries, but of his wives we know less. Or of most of his wives we should say, as Martha Gellhorn went on to become one of the most successful and well-known US war correspondents, work that she was already doing before she married Hemingway. Love and Ruin tells us a story of their relationship, beautiful and ultimately heartbreakingly impossible.
Love and Ruin captures your heart... I found myself thinking about it while walking around, telling my other half about it while we were eating lunch, trying to explain why my mind was in Cuba, why I admired Gellhorn so much, why I needed to revisit For Whom The Bell Tolls... It’s a beautiful novel, even if you don’t give a toss about Hemingway. It’s a wonderful capture of a time when the world fell apart, again and again.
Love and Ruin will be published by Random House on May 1st, 2018. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy!