This book has been in the pile beside my bed for a while. My wife had read it and thought I would enjoy it, and I did (she knows me well). I read most of it while traveling, and then stalled upon return (work and responsibilities took precedence), but I finally finished it.
Essentially, this is a work of historical fiction, telling the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, from the wife’s perspective. The writing is great and the story moves along nicely. And some of the dialog from the book reminded me of Hemingway’s style, which I thought was a nice touch.
During the part of the story where Hadley tells Ernest she is pregnant, the dialog is very similar to Hills Like White Elephants, which is especially poignant since that short story also deals with a discussion about pregnancy.
“You’re a strange one today.”
“You’re not in love with any actress in Paris, are you?”
“God, no.” He laughed.
“And you’ll stay with me always?”
“What is it, Kitty? Tell me.”
I met his eyes then. “I’m going to have a baby.”
“Now?” The alarm registered immediately.
“In the fall.”
“Please tell me it’s not true.”
“But it is. Be happy, Tiny. I want this.”
He sighed. “How long have you known?”
“Not long. A week maybe.”
“I’m not ready for this, not nearly.”
“You might be then. You might even be glad for it.”
“It’s been a hell of a few months.”
“You’ll work again. I know it’s coming.”
“Something’s coming,” he said darkly.
(pp. 146 – 7)
McLain does a great job of using metaphors in her tale. One that particularly resonated with me was the description of a false spring, symbolizing the false hope of renewed love.
Outside, the gray rain fell and fell. Where had spring gone? When I’d left for the Loire Valley, the leaves had been out on the trees, and the flowers were beginning to bloom, but now everything was drenched and drowned. It had been a false spring, a lie like all the other lies, and I found myself wondering if it would ever really come.
Overall, Hemingway comes across as a fairly despicable character, which does not surprise me. He’s misogynistic and driven by ego, and just kind of a jerk. He did write some great books, though. I’m thinking that it might be time to go back and re-read For Whom the Bell Tolls, one of my favorite Hemingway books that I read in my teens.
What about you? Do you have a favorite Hemingway novel?
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