The historical fiction novel “Love and Ruin” centers on the tumultuous love story between Ernest Hemingway and his third wife Martha Gellhorn; it reads like a memoir. The story is told by Marty Gellhorn and follows her from her roots in St. Louis, Missouri, through her travels as a journalist in Spain, Finland, Czechoslovak and Paris during wartime.
Twenty-eight-year-old Marty begins her adventures and career in 1937 by going to Madrid, Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War. This fiercely independent woman is determined to prove herself as a legitimate journalist in a field dominated by men.
While traveling through Spain and reporting on the war, she finds herself falling in love with Ernest Hemingway who is there making a film about the war. She is well aware that he is married and that he may return home to his wife, but she can’t stop loving him.
After Spain they return together to Cuba where they set up house. Ernest eventually divorces his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and marries Marty. Life in Cuba goes well until Hemingway publishes “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The novel is a hit and Hemingway is in demand, immensely popular. Hemingway being the self-centered person he is expects Marty to be okay with his drinking and the constant flow of friends through their home.
Marty realizes that she must make a choice – be the wife of a famous man and give up her career or risk losing Hemingway to follow her own path. Feeling stagnant, Marty accepts a correspondent assignment from “Colliers” to go to Finland and report on the development of World War II. Ernest doesn’t want her to go and becomes broken, never forgiving her. The unfaithful, needy, self-centered, alcoholic Hemingway also is vengeful. He contacts “Colliers” and asks to be their war correspondent, causing them to let Marty go. This is the last straw; Marty leaves Ernest (the only one of his four wives to do so) divorcing him and going on to pursue her own career.
Martha Gellhorn became one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. She covered every major conflict over six decades. She was 81 when she wrote her last correspondence. Marty paved the way for future female reporters. She also wrote novels and essays.
I really enjoyed “Love and Ruin.” McLain provided a good description of Marty’s inner struggle between her love for Ernest and her need to follow her own path. You can’t help but to cheer her on when reading this marvelous book.