by Paula McLain
Ballantine Books, 2018, 388 pages, Historical Fiction
Martha Gellhorn is known as one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century. In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn 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 the devastating conflict. But she also finds herself unexpectedly--and uncontrollably--falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest's relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals. 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 could break both of their hearts.
Paula McLain clearly excels at writing fictional accounts of real-life, complex, independent women who question conventional views and dare to reach for their own dreams. In McLain’s hand, Martha Gellhorn comes alive as a fully fleshed out person, and I appreciated the way she demanded respect for herself and her work in her own right, and wasn’t content with being known as the lover/wife of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway is also fully fleshed out (and fully frustrating), and experiencing the ebbs and flows of their relationship, as well as learning more about such an interesting and tumultuous time in history, kept me engrossed in the story. The narration of the audiobook was excellent.
Although it’s young adult nonfiction, I was interested to see the parallels between this book and Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism.