I had the most wonderful evening last Tuesday. I was invited to attend an Indigo Book Club event (yay for the invite) and at this event, Paula McLain spoke and answered questions about her newest novel, Love and Ruin. The evening was wonderful for a couple reasons. First, I really, really enjoyed the novel and second, it was so fascinating to hear about McLain’s process, how she decided to write about these characters, the journey she went on. And third, she signed my book and I had a moment to thank her for it. She was absolutely delightful and lovely!
After reading The Alice Network a couple months ago, I realized that I had been a bit hung up on the idea of not being a big fan of historical fiction and I resolved to read more of it. Love and Ruin is the first one since then but it’s the first of many and I’ll share a little list I have at the end of the post. What I love about Love and Ruin is one of the things I loved about The Alce Network– it’s a fictional story about real people and their lives. In this case, McLain writes about Martha Gelhorn, a celebrated war correspondent, journalist who also happens to have been Ernest Hemingway’s third wife. Love and Ruin is about their story.
I admit, I didn’t know anything about Martha Gelhorn before this story and reading it made me want to learn more about her. From my perspective, the least interesting thing about her was that she was married to Hemingway and I loved that this novel celebrated her. Yes, it tells their love story, how they met in Key West and fell for one another during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930’s and how she set up house in Cuba and explored being married to such a literary force but to me, it said so much more. I found myself marveling at this brave woman who travelled to Spain alone during the Spanish Civil War and then was continually drawn back to Europe during WWII and part of my marvel is that she would stop at nothing to go despite being a young woman in the 1940’s and despite being married. I found myself wanting to be more like her and hoping young women learn about her in school.
I really enjoyed Love and Ruin, not only because it told a part of Martha Gelhorn’s story but also because I loved the voices that McLain gave to these characters. They came to life for me as I read the book and while it is a work of fiction based on real life, it was such a lovely way to meet Gelhorn and Hemingway. I think I realized that what I like about some of the historical fiction I’ve read is the chance to meet amazing and brave women, some imagined and some based on real women through great stories. I will always love a book with an amazing woman (or by an amazing woman) and I can’t wait to add these to my reading list:
Any others you might recommend I add to my list?
I do hope that if you enjoy the genre or a great love story or a great adventure, check out Love and Ruin.
P.S. Here I am speaking with Paula McLain