Book Review: Love and Ruin by Paula McLain.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Version: Kindle edition

No. of Pages: 389 pages

Publisher, Date: Ballantine Books, May 2018

Setting: Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and Cuba


The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own. 

Blogger’s Opinion

I read this after finishing yet another ebook titled The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard, and felt a stream of disappointment creeping into my head. It wasn’t as great as the previous book and definitely not as amazing as The Last Innocent Hour by Margot Abbott. Nothing beats the latter, I suppose. And I was annoyed at how naive and gullible the main female character was when it came to dealing with her emotions and feelings for the one of the most famous authors known as Ernest Hemingway.

Also it was more biography-ish than it is a novel. It spun a yarn of Martha Gellhorn, one of the world’s greatest war correspondents, and her passionate yet stormy relationship with Ernest Hemingway, one of the world’s greatest authors, is considered a biography of some sort. I mean, yeah, this is Ernest Hemingway we’re talking about, and this ebook is all about Martha trying to break out as a war correspondent in her own right.

But I wasn’t as taken by the book as I thought I’d be. Martha abandoned everything for a man who claimed to be equally as supportive of her as she was of him. But I failed to see proof of that. For one, he was still married when they fell in love. He must have felt too safe and secured in the comfort of his current wife to suddenly throw everything away just so he and Martha could be together. Well, eventually they ended up together anyway but not before dragging poor Martha through the mud.

As I delved further and deeper into the book, I realised soon enough that Ernest Hemingway can really be a jerk. I’m not sure if in reality, he really was a jerk or maybe the author was just painting him to appear that way. But he was truly a big fat jerk! Martha Gellhorn may have been one of the world’s most celebrated female war correspondents but Ernest Hemingway had not only become one of the world’s greatest writers but also the world’s biggest jerk, a petty man, and a big bully. So he can go all out and work for a living but Martha couldn’t? What’s worse, he eventually took her place with the magazine she had been reporting for after they fell out for the umpteenth time!

Although I suppose both were to blame at some point. They were unable to behave properly as adults, both treated alcohol like water (drinking until they were madly drunk), both couldn’t put aside their love for work (to the point of creating unhealthy competition and if either had ranted and raved, somehow the other would follow) and just enjoy life with one another. Strange kind of relationship, if you ask me. Martha was a foolish woman for thinking that a man would wait for her every time she ran off to some war-torn country (yes, no doubt she was striking out on her own) and for believing that he was the one for her despite her mother’s warning and her own gut feelings.

I’m sure some of you would feel the book was great but for me, damn but I often felt like punching him in the face and slapping her in hers. I felt a tad glad when I finally finished reading it. It certainly played well to the title of being in love and in ruins.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. my site says:

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author.
    I will always bookmark your blog and will often come back later on. I
    want to encourage you to definitely continue your great job, have a nice holiday


    1. Sheu Quen says:

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂 and I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I’ll be sure to publish more interesting posts too! Have a great weekend!


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