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Hemingway's Girl Paperback – September 4, 2012
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“Robuck’s breathtaking alchemy is to put us inside the world of Hemingway and his wife Pauline....Dazzlingly written and impossibly moving, this novel is a supernova.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World
“You’ll love this [novel]...Addictive.”—*Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of The Stormchasers
“Richly realized...Readers will delight in the complex relationships and vivid setting.”—Publishers Weekly
“A total reading pleasure—ultimately a story about seeking and finding the best in ourselves and in others.”—Historical Novel Society, Editor's Choice
“I fell in love with Robuck’s Hemingway and with the fiery Mariella Bennet, but what I loved most was the novel's message: that we can inspire each other to be better human beings.”—Ann Napolitano, author of A Good Hard Look
“Evokes a setting of the greatest fascination...This is assured and richly enjoyable storytelling.”—Margaret Leroy, author of The Soldier's Wife
“Brings to vivid life the captivating and volatile world of a literary legend.”—Kristina McMorris, author of The Edge of Lost
“An inspiring story of heartache and renewal. Readers will be sure to enjoy this ode to a literary icon.”—Sarah McCoy, bestselling author of The Mapmaker's Children
“Colorful, atmospheric, and a pleasure to plunge into.”—Joseph Wallace, author of Diamond Ruby
About the Author
Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of The House of Hawthorne, Fallen Beauty, Call Me Zelda, Hemingway’s Girl, and Receive Me Falling. She is a contributor to the fiction blog Writer Unboxed, and she maintains her own blog, Muse. She is a member of the Hawthorne Society, the Hemingway Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and three sons.
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The prologue begins in 1961 a couple of days after Hemingway's death. Mariella is introduced with graying hair and is fishing with her son Jake on their boat Corrida. Of course her son was named after Jake Barnes from The Sun Also Rises and her boat's name is homage to Hemingway's love of bullfighting. As an Hemingway aficionado, these details are the things I enjoyed about Ms. Robuck's tale. The prologue also has Mariella thinking to herself that her son is just like his father. I was hooked then, wanting to know if Ms. Robuck weaves her tale making Hemingway the boy's father.
I highlighted many good passages and quotes from the book. Here are a few:
"She remembered when Hemingway had planted a banyan at his house and told her its parasitic roots were like human desire. At the time she's thought it romantic. She hadn't understood his warning."
"That night at the rum bar, Mariella watched Papa while she smoked. He still complained about the locals, but spent more time entertaining his audience with tales of the fish that grew more dramatic with each retelling. As she stubbed out her third cigarette, she acknowledged her increasing disdain for him. His endless boasting around the rich men; his foul, racist language; his complaints about critics; his overblown stories of game hunting in Africa; his flirtation with Jinny. The way he got off on Mariella's attraction for him around his wife. It diminished him. He used to seem so authentic, but lately she found him replaced by a sunburned, overfed legend of his own making. She felt strongly that he was in character, forever trying to hold up his image for the men around him."
"He looked like a bull struck by a sword at a bullfight, emblazoned with anger and ready to maul."
"Mariella looked at the people in the room and loved them deeply. In a rush, she felt the physical melancholy of vacation's end settle over her. Its shadow fell over everyone in the room. She knew all these people would start leaving, and they would have to go back to work, and she would be without Gavin during the week, and hurricane season would rush into full swing. Instead of the joy and expectation of time left on holiday, she felt the dread of numbered days, and even though she missed her family greatly, she knew that these people would never again be together, like this, on an island at the edge of the world."
I appreciated Ms. Robuck's research and her historical accuracy. The main characters were there, including Hemingway's good friends Charles and Lorine Thompson and John and Katy Dos Passos, his wife, Pauline, his kids Bumby, Patrick, and Gregory, Ada the nanny, Toby the caretaker, and Grant and Jane Mason. All were portrayed as I have read about them again and again. Ms. Robuck also added her own characters: Gavin, the World War I vet with whom Mariella falls in love, Mariella's Cuban mother Eva, her sisters Estelle and Lulu, John, another veteran who had lost his legs at the Argonne, Nicholas the neighbor, and others.
Another aspect of this book I appreciated was Ms. Robuck's honest portrayal of Hemingway. Through Mariella and others, she exposes his darker sides, as well as his kindness and generosity and genuine love of his community. We see his humor, intelligence, and physical prowess, but also we see his need for praise, his inflated ego, his callousness at times, and his rationalization of bad behavior. The character that never gets much sympathy is poor Pauline, but she does have some redeeming qualities in the end. We see how her relationship with Hemingway could have slowly deteriorated and how she seemed to have no real sense of self. But there is so much we can never know about Pauline since she died suddenly, 10 years before Hemingway committed suicide.
I had forgotten about the hurricane that hit the Keys in 1935, bringing the most devastation to the upper keys. The novel reminded me of how tragic this hurricane was for the islands and how Hemingway wrote an article about the governmental neglect of the veterans that were working on the railroad at the time.
Ms. Robuck brought the story full circle in her epilogue. Letters were how this story ended--letters between Mariella and Hemingway--just like the thousands of letters sent back and forth between Hemingway and his friends and family his entire life.
I expected to read about the lifestyle of the poor in Key West. I was not disappointed.
What I did not expect was a very graphic description of the very first category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the US. I found this part of the book to be extremely interesting. I like the way the author brings to life a very violent storm and the politics surrounding the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.
I read The Paris Wife and loved it. This book reminds me of that one, but set later in Hem's life and in the tropics. I have been to KW recently and can "see" the town she describes.
I am not quite finished with this book but wanted to share my thoughts. This is a fun, smart book with sharp dialogue. You will like it even if you have never read one of EH's books. Enjoy!