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The Hemingway Women Paperback – December 17, 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On the overloaded shelf of Hemingway biographies, this perceptive group portrait claims a unique spot. Focusing on his wives, lovers, and female friends, Bernice Kert highlights aspects of the writer's personality that are often shrouded by his hypermasculine public image. Women were certainly attracted by Hemingway's swaggering charm and boundless vitality, but they also discerned an underlying strain of sensitivity and vulnerability he concealed from the world. Although a friend once remarked that Hemingway was the only man he knew who really hated his mother, Kert's stereotype-shattering depiction of their combative relationship limns Grace Hall Hemingway in more nuanced terms than her son ever did and reminds readers that much of Hemingway's creativity and competitiveness came from her. The wives emerge as people in their own right, though journalist Martha Gelhorn was the only one to find her career more interesting than being Mrs. Hemingway. Kert's portraits of the unwitting models for the author's heroines reveal significant differences between the actual Agnes von Kurowsky and the fictional Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, between Duff Twysden and Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway tended to write about the ideal female; Kert restores the real women who shaped his life and art. --Wendy Smith

Review

Absorbing. . . . Hemingway's life [becomes] a symphony of movements defined by the women he loved. --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 556 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (December 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318357
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mariano L. Bernardez on April 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book, written with style and interest, is a sound ,balanced and well documented research on the lives and marriages of Ernst Hemingway with this four wives , Hadley Richardson (portayed in A Moveable Feast), Pauline Pfeiffer (Green Hills of Africa), Martha Gelhorn -a writer herself- (The fifth column) and Mary Welsh (A dangerous summer), inteligently ilustrated, amusing and covering also his famous lovers: Adriana Ivancich (his Renata in Across the river and under the trees) and Jane Kendall Mason (Brett Ashley herself in the Sun Also Rises) and the affairs that ended and started his marriages leaving a lasting pattern in his literature. It's an amusing and interesting book for those who love, hate or ignore Hemingway. It also explores his difficult and influencing relationship with his mother.
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This is as much fun to read as a great novel and has all the ingredients of a great read, as they say: love, hate, success, adventure, etc. For the most part, Ernest Hemingway is remembered as a mans's man, an adventurer who loved bullfights, safaris, hunting, shooting, fishing. But at heart he was a man who needed to be taken care of, but resented every woman who tried. All of his wives were from the same basic mold: adverturers and writers (was Hadley a writer?) and all of them wanted nothing more than to be with this exciting man who loved and adored her. That is, until they got married. Then the fun for him was over and he resented being taken care of by a woman who he thought of as a sex object, and he couldn't fathom that they might be able to cohabit the same body. In his letters he pleads for his women to always love him and take care of him, but in reality he resented them for doing just that. He admired Martha Gellhorn, the wife with by far the most spunk, for being a good journalist, until they were married. He wanted her to stay home with him, but she resisted his control. So what does he do? He meets another journalist, Mary Welsh, and immediately, on first sight, falls in love with her and begs for her to take care of him and to always love him. Which she did. And he immediately hated her for it. And it destroyed her.

It is so ironic that the man who professed to hate his father for committing suicide (albeit blaming his mother for it) would in the end take his own life. Of course, by that time he was a shell of the adventurer/writer/lover, and was beset by illness, both psychiatric and otherwise, none of which he would allow treatment for.
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I was inspired to read this book after reading The Paris Wife. Hadley Richardson was such an interesting woman in her own right, and reading The Paris Wife made me want to read about the other three wives and what they were like. What I loved most about this book was the picture it paints of Hemingway himself. He could be a real brute, but at the same time what a fascinatingly flawed human being. Nothing I didn't love about this book. Very well written and hard to put down.
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Bernice Kert has given me my first true understanding of who Hemingway was and why he did the things he did. His choice of women, more so the women he married and the woman who gave birth to him are phsycoanalysis at it best. I now see the "Peter Pan" in Hemingway, not the masculine adventurer,hunter and "man's man". I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it highly.
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After reading several books about Hemingway's life in Paris, the successful years of publishing that followed, and the odd mixture of personalities that soon populated his stories, a realistic and provocative look into the women he loved and married. The puzzle pieces come together to answer who best influenced his female characters. Best read in a long time!
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Recent became interested in Hemingway after reading the Paris Wife. I found myself wanting to know more and more about papa's wives and bought several other Hemingway related books including this one. It had photos which put faces to names and was highly readable and transitioned the reader smoothly from one wife to the next. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Update after second reading: Author obtained primary material from the subjects themselves; this may be the most important "new" biography of Hemingway to date. Highly recommend it after you've read earlier biographies of Hemingway; this can be read as first bio of Hemingway, but I think you will enjoy it more if you've read others first.

Earlier review: This book will save you the trouble of reading the autobiographies, the biographies, and selected letters of Ernest Hemingway and these five women (his mother and four wives).

But you will enjoy reading the autobiographies and selected letters first, and then coming back to this book to fill in the gaps.

The writing is stilted -- often reads like a PowerPoint presentation -- compared to the writing actually done by its subjects. Specifically, "How It Was" by Mary Welsh Hemingway is a joy to read, and I recommend that before reading "Hemingway Women."

As a reference to fill in the gaps, this is an important book for the Hemingway fan(atic).
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