Paula McLain‘s latest novel, Love and Ruin, is simultaneously devastatingly tragic and eloquently beautiful. It shares the story of the passionate love affair and stormy marriage of Martha (“Marty”) Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway.
This is the story of how the married Hemingway seduced a much younger reporter, married her, then dumped her when she continued pursuing her career, while he sat home drinking. As he saw it, her accepting an overseas assignment meant she had left him.
Marty Gellhorn was truly a woman ahead of her time, working as a novelist and war correspondent. She became one of the first female war correspondents of the 20thcentury. On vacation with her family in Key West, in a chance encounter, she met Hemingway. He became a family friend and mentor, frequently calling her “Daughter”.
Prior to the publication of Hemingway’s blockbuster novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they were equals – both were struggling journalists and authors. After the publication of Bells, he was a legend. There was no longer equality in the marriage. Love and Ruindelves into Hemingway’s moody, depressive, narcissistic, and bullying personality. He is revealed as an insecure man-child who required an entourage of admirers, and demanded that Marty give up her career to be the wife of a famous man. As Marty’s byline became more well-known and sought-after, he saw her as a professional rival. Refusing to sacrifice her growing fame as a reporter, Marty traveled throughout war-torn Europe for Collier’smagazine.
Not only is Love and Ruin a compelling work of historical fiction, it is a commentary on the competing demands of home, family, and work placed on career women not encountered by men. Additionally, the book gives the reader an up-close and personal view of the experiences not only of the soldiers, but also of people living in the midst of war, as well as alluding to the tragedies caused by untreated personality disorders and depression.