Book Review: LOVE AND RUIN by Paula McLain @FleetReads

Love and RuinPublication: 7 June 2018 by Fleet

In 1937, courageous and independent Martha Gellhorn travels to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, and finds herself drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly – and uncontrollably – falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man already on his way to being a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Hemingway made their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite.

But when Hemingway publishes the biggest literary success of his career, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the suffocating demands of a domestic lifestyle, or risk losing her husband by forging her way as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.


I am not a big fan of historical novels, but when I read the names of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn I couldn’t help myself and I requested LOVE AND RUIN on NetGalley, because I am a huge fan of his novels and her writing.

The novel starts right when Martha first met Hemingway, how they first became friends, then lovers, and then husband and wife. It was fascinating to see the two sides of Martha. When she was with Hemingway she was a woman in love who accepted her man requests, although it was good to see her stand up to him. They were jealous of each other’s success and she was often left in the shadow. But when she was away from him, on the field, trying to get material for her articles she was fiery, strong, and determined. She traveled all around Europe during World War II and she would do anything to get the article she wanted, including hide in a hospital ship bathroom to be the only woman to witness the Normand landings. That’s what I liked most about this character, her bravery, her commitment to show to the people in her country the brutalities of the war and her commitment to her career that, in the end, she chose over her marriage.

Although the novel focuses mostly on her relationship with Hemingway, the author explores also her relationship with her three stepsons whom she loved deeply and her relationship with her family. Her father died before she met Hemingway and they had a difficult relationship because he wasn’t very supportive of her writing, but she was very close to her mother and she often confided in her.

The novel is told mostly from Martha’s point of view and, thanks to the author’s attention to details and accuracy, it read like a memoir. It’s beautifully written, insightful, and memorable and I had a really hard time put it down!

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