Summary and book reviews of Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Mrs. Hemingway

By Naomi Wood

Mrs. Hemingway
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  • Paperback: May 2014,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

The Paris Wife was only the beginning of the story...

Paula McLain's New York Times bestselling novel piqued readers' interest about Ernest Hemingway's romantic life. But Hadley was only one of four women married, in turn, to the legendary writer. Just as T.C. Boyle's bestseller The Women completed the picture begun by Nancy Horan's Loving Frank, Naomi Wood's Mrs. Hemingway tells the story of how it was to love, and be loved by, the most famous and dashing writer of his generation. Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary: each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.

Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway's marriages. Spanning 1920s bohemian Paris through 1960s Cold War America, populated with members of the fabled "Lost Generation," Mrs. Heminway is a riveting tale of passion, love, and heartbreak.

1. Hadley

Everything, now, is done à trois. Breakfast, then swimming; lunch, then bridge; dinner, then drinks in the evening. There are always three breakfast trays, three wet bathing suits, three sets of cards left folded on the table when the game, abruptly and without explanation, ends. Hadley and Ernest are accompanied wherever they go by a third: this woman slips between them as easily as a blade. This is Fife: this is her husband's lover.

Hadley and Ernest sleep together in the big white room of the villa, and Fife sleeps downstairs, in a room meant for one. The house is quiet and tense until one of their friends arrives with soap and provisions, idling by the fence posts, wondering whether it might be best to leave the three undisturbed.

They lounge around the house—Hadley, Ernest, and Fife—and though they know they are all miserable no one is willing to sound the first retreat; not wife, not husband, not mistress. They have been in the villa like this for...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Who was your favourite Mrs. Hemingway, and why?

  2. If you could have a cocktail with any of the women, which one would it be?

  3. Which woman did you identify with the most?

  4. Why do you think women were so attracted to Hemingway? And why do you think they were so willing to turn a blind-eye to his indiscretions?

  5. Was it shocking to find out that so many of the mistresses and wives were friends?

  6. Did you have sympathy for any of the women you previously may have disliked?

  7. Ernest Hemingway was charming but also an incurable cad! Did you have any sympathy for him by the end of the novel?

  8. Why do you think he married so often, and so often made the same mistake?

  9. If you've read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife, how does the portrait of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The subject matter covered isn't new; each woman has had at least one biography written about her life and relationship with Hemingway. By fictionalizing the narrative however, Wood provides a different perspective on her heroines, fleshing out the bare bones of fact with richly imagined motivations and emotions. The result is that the wives' love, sorrow, anger and frustration resonate in a way that feels right — closer to truth than not.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
Library Journal

Fans of literary biographies and biographical novels such as Paula McClain's best seller The Paris Wife will adore Wood's second novel. It will also appeal more broadly to those interested in history or historical fiction, women's issues, and romance.

Booklist

Seamlessly blending known facts with fiction, Mrs. Hemingway is an absorbing, tender glimpse inside the lives of those in Hemingway’s inner circle.

Literary Review (UK)

Well researched... interesting...[and] cleverly done.

The Bookseller (UK)

Very occasionally, a piece of fiction based on facts is so good that I catch myself thinking: 'Oh, so that's how it really was.' Wood achieves this in this breathtakingly good look at the lives of Ernest Hemingway's four wives... Sublime.

Marie Claire (UK)

Luminous, intoxicating…A passionate novel based on real lives, full of betrayals and moments of heartbreaking intimacy as Wood gives four remarkable women star billing.

Stylist Magazine (UK)

Exquisitely written, the Mrs. Hemingways finally have their say in this beautiful novel.

Red (UK)

A beautiful read and an amazing insight into the life of the man... superb.

Author Blurb Therese Ann Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Wood has given us a fascinating, astutely observed, gorgeously written account of the Hemingway wives and their charismatic, enigmatic, troubled and troublesome husband. This is a gem of a book.

Author Blurb Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincoln's Rival
Naomi Wood's absorbing, illuminating novel offers fascinating portraits of four extraordinary women and the tortured literary genius who loved them. If you thought you knew all there was to know about Ernest Hemingway's wives, their passions, and their heartbreak, think again.

Author Blurb Jojo Moyes, New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
It takes an unusual skill to keep someone reading a story to which they think they already know the ending. But Mrs. Hemingway is so beautifully written, and evocative, that I could not put it down until the last page.

Author Blurb Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway's Girl
With remarkable insight and boldness, Naomi Wood brilliantly takes on one of history's most remembered writers and the women who loved him. Obsessively readable, fascinating, and heartbreaking, Mrs. Hemingway captures a time and people in a style the legend himself would no doubt admire.

Author Blurb Ellen Feldman, Orange Prize-shortlisted author of Lucy
Forget everything you thought you knew about Ernest Hemingway's four wives.  In a quartet of searing interlocked portraits, Naomi Wood brings vividly to life the real women who loved and lost the legendary charmer and great writer.

Author Blurb Ian Sansom, author of The Case of the Missing Books
A detailed and deeply affecting account of the complex relationship between love and work.

Author Blurb Andrew Cowan, author of Pig
It's superb, everything about it - the sentences, details, dialogue, but also the architecture, the way it's built. It flirts with all that's already known, but the women feel real and fresh, and through their eyes so does Hemingway.

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Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Many writers of "The Lost Generation," including Ernest Hemingway, spent a considerable amount of time in a Paris bookstore run by expat Sylvia Beach. Both Beach and her business offered considerable support to these artists, and in many ways were partly responsible for shaping the American literature of the generation.

Sylvia Beach was born March 14, 1887 in Baltimore, Maryland, as Nancy Woodbridge Beach, only taking the name "Sylvia" in later life as tribute to her father Sylvester. A Presbyterian minister from a long line of churchmen, Sylvester was responsible for his daughter's introduction to Paris, moving the family overseas for his work as an assistant pastor for the American Church in Paris from 1901 to 1905. Sylvia returned to ...

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