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Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways Hardcover – October 26, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (October 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345467337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345467331
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Valerie Hemingway was a 19-year-old Dubliner named Valerie Danby-Smith when she first encountered Ernest Hemingway in Spain in 1959. Having attempted to interview the literary giant for the Irish Times, she found herself sucked into his entourage. Thus began her long association with the doomed Hemingway family (which she joined officially when she married Hemingway's estranged son Gregory years after Hemingway's death). Ernest Hemingway, openly infatuated with the young Valerie, soon persuaded her to become his personal secretary and took her on a nostalgic driving tour of his old haunts in Provence and Paris. His fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a shrewd former newswoman, tolerated this arrangement—by all accounts a platonic one—and she and Valerie even became firm friends. But as Hemingway's health failed, the depressed writer began to confide in Valerie his desire to kill himself. When he succeeded, in 1961, Valerie, employed by Newsweek, flew to Mary's side and helped her pack up the house in Cuba. Valerie spent the following four years sorting through Hemingway's papers at Mary's behest. An account of her stressful marriage to the manic-depressive cross-dressing physician Gregory Hemingway concludes a memoir that is vividly written and rich in atmosphere and anecdote, although it lacks a memorable or compelling portrait of Ernest Hemingway himself.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Valerie Danby-Smith was 19 years old, convent-bred Irish, and a beginning reporter when she interviewed Ernest Hemingway in the midst of Madrid's bullfight season in 1959. He soon changed her life by inviting her to work for him as secretary and confidante. She saw Hemingway at something like a peak--he was writing A Moveable Feast and sustaining the convivial high life--and also at his childish worst. The next year, with Hemingway and his wife, Mary, in Cuba, he was overtaken by fear, a maelstrom from which he never recovered. Mary asked her to sort through Hemingway's manuscripts and letters after his suicide in 1961. Then, after succumbing to a night with the playwright Brendan Behan and bearing his child, Valerie married the youngest Hemingway son, Gregory, who, despite his own respected memoir, and, perhaps, because of his predilection for dressing as a woman, never lived up to his father. Valerie's tender account has its share of sunny locales (Pamplona, Provence, Paris) and glitterati (Lauren Bacall, Cyril Connolly, bullfighter Antonio Ordonez), but its undertone is deep sadness. Steve Paul
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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The life of Ernest Hemingway is currently my favorite obsession.
If you are interested in a different side to the Hemingway story then this is a good book to read.
Allen L. Peterson
So Valerie, the long-ago journalist, attempted the project, very tentatively.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By M. Pilgeram on June 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In this sophisticated and adroitly handled memoir, Valerie Hemingway details the years she spent with the Hemingway family-traveling with Ernest's entourage in Spain, working as his personal secretary in Cuba, assisting Mary with Ernest's estate after his death, and dealing with the psychological trauma of her marriage to Ernest's estranged son, Gregory. While the book offers an intimate look at the final years of Hemingway's life that will be of interest to both scholars and Hemingway enthusiasts alike, it is also a finely wrought and intriguing narrative that details the life of a young Irish journalist who by chance found herself enmeshed in the exciting but often disturbing world of the Hemingway family. From her run-ins with literary and artistic figures in Europe, to her dealings with Fidel Castro in attempts to safely secure the Hemingway estate after Ernest's suicide, Valerie Hemingway observed first hand the last gasps of literary modernism as the culture entered the turbulent politics of the 1960s, and this cultural backdrop sets the stage for Valerie's account of her intellectual awakening. This book is essential reading not only for those looking for an in-depth look at Ernest Hemingway's final years and the aftermath of his suicide but also for those looking for an engrossing account of the author's captivating life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. N. Seger on November 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Valerie Hemingway has written a superb memoir with sensitivity and insight into a complex man and his world. Writing about Ernest Hemingway, she strikes a difficult balance between adoration and objectivity. Her prose is pleasing--sweet in places--sometimes humorous, and altogether compelling. Valerie Hemingway's often forlorn childhood in Ireland is interesting, and the unlikely confluence of this convent girl and the macho author is fascinating. On top of that comes a romance with Brendan Behan, Ernest Hemingways's suicide, and Valerie's eventual marriage to Hemingway's son, Gregory, who turns out to be a transvestite. Valerie Hemingway spent 28 years involved with the Hemingway family, and her observations and comments are important additions to the lore about Ernest Hemingway, his friends, enemies, wives and children. "Running With the Bulls" is not happy reading in many spots, but it is always engaging.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Billyjack D'Urberville on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When a non-literary or semi-literary character gets caught up in the wake of a great writer, an historical event or disaster or what have you, you have to take their memoir as it is. Valerie Hemingway, a teen when she met Hemingway, seems to have been an aspiring journalist and to have done some editing since, though obviously she makes no great claim as a writer. The question is what she has to say, and frankly this writer not only has some new revelations about Hemingway and his family which are more than mere gossip, but posesses a degree of wisdom and balance, all in all something to say about life.

The first half of the book deals with Valerie's relationship with Ernest and Mary Hemingway, in Spain and Cuba, 1959-1961. The author is eerily present in each line Valerie writes, well recognizable from other known accounts, but she adds her own valuable and to some degree deeper take. She was a perceptive girl who Hemingway (who always enjoyed tough young "Summer People" as he once memorably termed them) obviously had good reason to like. But just as obviously it has taken her years to meditate on this material and get it right.

Hemingway's funeral and her meeting with Gregory are then told, including her touchy relationship with Mary Hemingway. Here one perhaps wishes for a little more, but the fact is no one yet has been able to properly get an angle on Hemingway's fox terrier of a fourth wife who stuck it out for hell on earth and was thereby seriously damaged afterwords.

An interlude then concerns the Irish playwright Brendan Behan, by whom Valerie had a son. And finally the rest -- which comes to feel like the majority of the book -- concerns the third "bull" in her life, Ernest's third and tragic son Gregory, whom Valerie married.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. Bookhout on December 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I purchased and read this book because of my intense interest in the life of Ernest Hemingway. Memoirs by his family members or friends often disappoint, but I was impressed with this one. Valarie Hemingway writes well and sheds new light on Hemingway's last years, leading up to his suicide. Her tumultuous marriage to Ernest's troubled son Gregory is fully and truthfully explored here for the first time, and that alone is worth the price of admission. Running With The Bulls is an interesting and worthwhile look at the Hemingway family from a fresh perspective.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Wheeler on November 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Valerie Hemingway's account of the last years of Ernest Hemingway's life, and his suicide that affected her in so many ways, is magnificent. She catches the author's insecurities as his abilities fail along with his eyesight. She records his obsession with suicide, countered by his lust for life and his enjoyment of the international acclaim he had won.

But this is also about an extraordinary woman, filled with tenderness, steely in her courage, who loved and nursed and nurtured and sometimes fought several Hemingways, including Ernest, Mary, and her husband Gregory, Ernest's ill-starred son.

This is more than a memoir: it is a superb study of genius and madness, the betrayals of Ernest's sycophantic friends, and the pain and joy associated with a celebrity life.

This is an important work, a great contribution to our understanding of one of America's greatest authors, and his family. She has written with grace and courage and beauty, and were Ernest Hemingway alive, he would be celebrating her achievement.
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