Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Review: Love and Ruin

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

This is a tricky one to review. Why? Because while love McLain's writing (LOVE IT), I was not a fan of the actual story. However, this is not necessarily a fault of McLain's as it is historical fiction. Allow me to explain.

Love and Ruin is the story of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway's whirlwind romance and subsequent divorce. Here's the thing - I am never a fan of love stories that begin as affairs. Again, this is not McLain's doing - it is what happened in real life. However, with a writer as strong as McLain, I actually did find myself rooting for them (or at least for Gellhorn) in the beginning. I was able to see things through her eyes. That's a first for me, so I applaud McLain for it.

But, then again, McLain clearly strives to not only bring Gellhorn to life but also to focus. Gellhorn, a remarkable journalist, feared she would live her life in the shadow of Hemingway. Therefore, the novel covers the time periods surrounding Hemingway by telling what Gellhorn was doing. And, she was doing a lot. Unfortunately, she was doing so much, that the book seemed longer and longer. And, if I'm being honest, I just wasn't as invested in every little career pursuit during this time as I was the story of her and Hemingway - shame on me!

Based on the title (and general knowledge about Hemingway's four wives), I knew that the "Ruin" was coming. And, it was not fun. It is terribly sad. So, there is a lot of build-up, and then a lot of stagnant career stuff, and then a sad ending.

Again, this is not the writer's fault - it is the fault of the story itself. It is hard to read about two extraordinary, ambitious people who both want to burn the brightest and because of this couldn't get things right. To give you a better idea of the writing, here are some of my favorite quotes:

"This is the light of childhood. I was all the ages I had ever been."

"Confident about some things and not at all about others. Like all the men I knew. Like all the people I knew. Like me."

"Anything and anyone could disappear on you, and you could disappear, too, if you didn't have people around who really knew you. Who were there solidly, meeting you exactly where you stood when life grew stormy and terrifying. Who could find you when you were lost and couldn't find yourself, not even in the mirror."

"This is personal, this life, and every time we graze against one another even for a moment, we aren't the same afterward."

"Paradise was always fragile. That was its very nature."

Fans of McLain's The Paris Wife will also enjoy this one, as well fans of history.

***Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this copy to review!

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