When I was in Dubrovnik earlier in the year I met a group of American doctors, one of whom recommended I read For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Despite having visited Cuba a few years ago – a country where Hemingway spent much of his life – I know very little about the author and For Whom the Bell Tolls still remains on a pile of unread books.
Thus it was that when I began Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood – author of The Godless Boys – I had very little idea of what to expect. Set between the 1920s and 1960s against heady backdrops of Paris, Antibes and Havana, Mrs Hemingway is narrated by the author’s four wives – Hadley, Fife, Martha and Mary – as each of them deal with explosive love-triangles that tear apart their relationships.
Compelling from the get go, Mrs Hemingway is a fascinating depiction of the interwoven intimacy between Hemingway and his four wives; each of whom deal with the break down of their relationship in different ways.
The setting is both highly evocative and hugely glamorous; a stark contrast to the heartbreak and betrayal simmering behind closed doors. The portrayal of Hemingway is intricate; and the research Wood must have undertaken to write this novel obvious.
Both poignant and heart-breaking in equal measure, Mrs Hemingway is a captivating read that will delight fans of both Wood and Hemingway. A brilliant insight into one of the world’s greatest writers, I shall certainly be moving For Whom the Bell Tolls further up my reading pile.
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