Thank you Penguin Random House (Ballantine Books) for sending me a finished copy of this novel for an honest review.
Love and Ruin
By: Paula McLain
ISBN: 9781101967386 (Hardcover)
Published: May 1, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
If you are an Ernest Hemingway fan, specifically a fan of his marriages, then this should be up your alley. I have not read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, but I guess that one also talks about Hemingway. Love and Ruin focuses on Martha Gellhorn, an independent twenty-eight year old woman with more ambitions than she can count on both of her hands. Her biggest goal is to become a writer and prove to all the men in the field that women can do the same thing, if not better. She ends up traveling to Madrid during the Spanish Civil War (heartbreaking by the way) to report on what is happening. She becomes attached to not only the tragedy that is taking place but also Ernest himself. They end up falling in love, but when WWII starts showing it’s face it goes downhill from there. He is more interested in getting drunk and writing his books than loving and supporting Martha. She has to decide if she wants to spend her life being compared to her husband, or spend it becoming her own person, creating her own path to success.
I figured I would talk a little bit about what is happening while we are following our main character, Martha. She travels to Madrid in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. I’m going to be honest with you, I had absolutely no idea what took place/why the war happened in the first place. I’m sure I learned it in school, but I don’t remember it at all. I’m not going to give a history lesson, because ya’ll don’t want that, but I’ll just give a brief summary if you are interested. Basically, there was a great divide between the Republicans and the Nationalists that were led by Francisco Franco. The Nationalists wanted to take over the country from the already established government. As a result to both sides being reckless, so many people died. Eventually the Republic fell, and Franco took over. However, that was not the end. The Spanish citizens had started to break into barracks, which the Nationalists were not prepared for. They had to ask for assistance, and of course they had Hitler, Mussolini and Salazar on their side. You probably know where it goes from there.
There was the Spanish Civil War, the Winter War, WWII, just so many conflicts took place throughout this story. It was very intense and heartbreaking.
I hated his character in the novel. He was a drunk that married so many women because he couldn’t stand not being married. He never supported Martha, even though all she did was love and support him. She knew that he was one of the best writers of his time. I thought I liked him in the beginning, but as soon as he had Marsha hook, line and sinker he changed completely. He knew that she wanted to be on site for a report that she wanted to write, and he would always be one step ahead of her and ruin her chances (hence the name Love and Ruin). It was all just out of spite. She traveled because she loved it, but he thought that because they were married she had to be next to him 24/7.
She is probably one of my favorite female protagonists, ever. She is strong-willed, independent and smart. According to the author’s note in the back of the book, Martha Gellhorn reported on almost every conflict for sixty years. Which is pretty bad ass if you ask me. It takes so much dedication and strength to withstand all of that. Obviously she wasn’t always morally correct, but everyone makes mistakes. It just proves that she is human like the rest of us. It helps me relate to her a little more. It breaks my heart that she was such a wonderful woman who was treated like garbage when all she wanted to do was make sure everything was okay. What she does in the end of the book just makes me super happy. I’m so proud of her, and she will forever be one of my favorite people.
Edna (Martha’s mother):
I thought it was sweet that no matter what she was doing she always greeted her husband at the door when he came home. However, I found out later that Martha’s father wasn’t the greatest person in the world. Edna wasn’t a bad character, and definitely encouraged Martha more than probably any other character. I’m going to assume that Ernest’s support was totally fake. Edna made herself more known as the story came to a close. She came in right when Ernest and Martha had their issues and falling out.
The story is very much character driven even thoughshe does throw in a lot about the setting. I loved learning from this book, even though it’s fiction. I had no idea what the Winter War was until it was mentioned in the book. McLain knew how to give you all the details of the war while sticking with the main issues at hand. It never felt info dumpy (lol). I could see how it might be to other people, but I like learning new information. I recommend this even if you don’t read historical fiction. Martha Gellhorn is definitely a person I’d like to know more about.
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