January Book Review: Mrs. Hemingway

IMG_0487.JPGThis year I started my reading off right with Naomi Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway. While venturing through London via the Tube last week, I’d observed no less than half a dozen Brits deep in the pages of Wood’s recent piece of fiction. Then, while at Heathrow waiting for my gate to be announced on Monday, I decided to pick up one last London souviner: my very own copy of Mrs. Hemingway. 8 hours and 3500 miles later I was 3-quarters of the way through one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time.

I found it interesting reading some of the other reviews of this book on GoodReads, of the reviews that were bad (and there were only a few) the reader would often say, “I hate Ernest Hemingway.” I found it interesting because when I finished reading the story I wasn’t thinking about Ernest, but rather I was thinking about his wives. In fact, this novel is all about the Mrs. – all four of them. For me, this great piece of fiction was all about Hadley, Fife, Martha, and Mary. Aside from Hadley, all the wives were the only mistresses (and there were many) who earned the title of Mrs.

Wood’s organizes the story perfectly. The novel chronicles 40 years of marriage (1921 to 1961) is divided into 4 sections, one for each wife, and within the section of each wife it navigates through the beginnings as well as the ends of the four marriages. As a reader you see why the women became so infatuated, and then you see the clear demise. Ernest had a wandering eye, a love for alcohol, and likely suffered from depression (he committed suicide in 1961). The wives on the other hand all loved him for different reasons: his talent, good looks, the way he carried himself, love for the finer things in life … or Hadley, who had no other reason to love him than for who he was as a man.

Even though the next wife was always the reason for the demise of the previous marriage, these women formed bonds and friendships with one another. I tried to put myself in their shoes: would I be willing to be friends or confidants with a woman that had been the subject of my husband’s wandering eye? I don’t think so, but obviously these women felt so deeply for Hemingway that perhaps this was the way they could stay connected to him. Perhaps it also had to do with the timing, being that they were in Paris during the 1920s and 1940s, did the War bring them close?

I find it important to mention that this is indeed a piece of fiction, but that the general stories and some details are indeed stories of reality. In the Afterword of the novel Wood’s shares with her readers some of the resources that she used to gather information, that the reader may also be interested in reading to learn more about the Hemingway wives. A few mentioned are The Hemingway Women, The First Mrs. Hemingway, Hemingway Home, and Hemingway Cuba.

What was your first read of the year? xoxo ‘n lols, crystal


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