Review: Mrs. Hemingway

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Author: Naomi Wood
ISBN: 9781447229742
RRP: $29.99

Mrs Hemingway is about Ernest Hemingway, his four wives and the people around him. I have a habit of just picking books up off my TBR pile without doing a lot of research and often without even reading the blurb so it is with an open mind and no preconceptions I go in, often also with little real knowledge. I begin with this because I was never quite sure whether Mrs. Hemingway was a biography or a fictionalised account. As soon as I finished the book I did some digging, which I now can’t find, and searching some more now I am still not completely certain. I think it is a testament to her talent that Wood has written this novel so beautifully that it is difficult to distinguish where the fact finishes and fiction steps in.

Meticulously researched and based on actual events for the most part, as far as I can tell, Wood gives us an intimate look into the life of Ernest Hemingway, one of literature’s finest. Mrs. Hemingway is written in four parts, focusing on each Mrs. Hemingway in turn. The time-lines get a little tangled as Hemingway was definitely a man opposed to an empty bed and the subsequent wife was well and truly entrenched before the previous marriage was ended. We look on as each wife believes their love will last forever, and as they begin to see the third person enter their marriage and move into the next phase.

Mrs hemingway

I know the name Ernest Hemingway but didn’t know a lot about the man, Wood has brought him to life through the eyes of those who loved him and showed the man behind the picture on his dust jackets. Sitting here thinking back on the book and what I want to say about it I keep coming back to events in the book and wondering about where that line is between truth and fiction, which events didn’t happen: was there really a lost suitcase containing ALL of Hemingway’s early work, did Harry Cuzzemano really exist?

Wood realistically evokes a time long past with her beautiful prose, from the roaring 20s right through to the 60s chronicling Hemingways literary accomplishments as well as his tangled private life. The women who loved him, it seems, did so completely and accepted him flaws and all – quite aside from being a serial adulterer he was demanding, complicated and prone to bouts of depression; all exacerbated by a drinking problem. His was a complex character with a propensity to fall in love quickly and a need to be married.

Mrs Hemingway is a riveting novel, beautifully written and sure to capture readers, it left me wanting to know more about the major players and how they really ticked, what they were like in life.

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