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Book Review: Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Ernest Hemingway will always be considered one of the greatest writers of all time, known for many classics such as For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms; however few really know the story behind such a genius. Mrs Hemingway is a fantastic imagining of the real life events that went on behind Hemingway’s art, shown through the lives of his four wives: Hadley, Fife, Martha and Mary.
Naomi Wood sews together the lives of the most influential women in Hemingway’s life. The novel begins with the loving, albeit quite dysfunctional, relationship between Hemingway and Hadley who births his first child. Unfortunately Hadley is well aware of Hemingway’s affair with her old friend Pauline Pfeiffer, otherwise known as Fife, something that puts a large strain on the relationship. The relationship soon ends and the story is then told in Fife’s point of view. Fife continues to entice Hemingway with her extravagance but she too fails to keep his attention for long.

Martha, the thrill seeking journalist, steals Hemingway’s affections attracting conflict and Fife soon realises the mistake she made by drawing Hemingway away from her old friend. Hadley, being the kind and generous person she is, tries to help Fife cope with the newcomer, but as years pass Martha replaces Fife as Hemingway’s love interest. Woods explores Martha’s being through her narration and the reader starts to acknowledge how she too was wooed by the enchanting Hemingway.

From the beginning of the story, Woods hints at the intelligence that hides in Hemingway’s mind, but one can start to see the tangled destruction that starts to express itself in him as time goes on; something that is only exaggerated with each woman he decides to settle with. The closer he seems to be to a creative breakthrough, the closer he gets to the cliff edge of sanity. It’s not long before the cracks in his mind start to show and cause him to walk a destructive path.

As he slowly disintegrates into his depression Mary comes into his life and once more Hemingway leaves his, then current wife, Martha. He embarks on what might be considered the last section of his life. Following many accidents, he becomes greatly ill and depression continues to swallow him. Mary tries to relieve his symptoms as he drowns his sorrows in liquor, but Hemingway’s hectic, adventurous and enchanting life draws to a close as Naomi Woods brings his matrimonial tirade to an end in a seemingly honest reflection of the author’s life.

Woods highlights the true essence of Hemingway and the importance of his wives. Through each wife’s point of view the reader can see how each woman, however different they may be, sees something new and understands another part of Hemingway’s soul. Mrs Hemingway is an enticing read; in the well narrated pages you may even feel as though you too were part of Hemingway’s eccentric life.

Written by Lauren Noding

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