by Naomi Wood
In the dazzling summer of 1926, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley travel from their home in Paris to a villa in the south of France. They swim, play bridge and drink gin. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamorous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley’s best friend. She is also Ernest’s lover.
Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last. Over the ensuing decades, Ernest’s literary career will blaze a trail, but his marriages will be ignited by passion and deceit. Four extraordinary women will learn what it means to love the most famous writer of his generation, and each will be forced to ask herself how far she will go to remain his wife…
Luminous and intoxicating, Mrs. Hemingway portrays real lives with rare intimacy and plumbs the depths of the human heart.
This is such a sad book. Sad for the women in Ernest hemingway’s life whose lives revolved around this charismatic man. But sad also for Hemingway, who despite all his literary success was a desperately needy man who just couldn’t cope on his own.
The book is beautifully written. Naomi Wood’s prose is mesmerising. The raw emotion and intensity is visceral. There are moments of such intimacy that you feel you really shouldn’t be looking.
The author gives an equal voice to each wife and manages very well not to come across as judgemental or biased towards any of them. No such restraint from me:
His first wife Hadley is my favourite; badly betrayed by her ‘best friend’, she acted with good grace and moved on with dignity on realising that her marriage was finished. She comes across as a lady that anyone would be proud to be able to call a friend.
Fife on the other hand is the epitomy of everything you wouldn’t want in a friend, two-faced, underhand, selfish and I can’t say that I was sorry when the axe fell on her.
Martha, a fellow war correspondent, seems to be the one that challenged Hemingway the most. Having a career that she put before her husband was not something that he was used to, or liked. Although as usual Hemingway chose his next wife before ending with Martha, she had as much say in the split as he did.
Mary was his last wife and widow, and even though he stayed with her until his death, it is very difficult to say she didn’t draw the short straw. Having to deal with his deepening depression, his temper and ultimately watch him kill himself.
Even though the basics of the marriages are common knowledge this book is so worthwhile. It is a novel but feels biographical. Naomi Wood has done an excellent job bringing not only the characters to life but the whole era.