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Love and Ruin: Book summary and reviews of Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Love and Ruin

A Novel

by Paula McLain

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain X
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
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  • Published May 2018
    400 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

The bestselling author of The Paris Wife brings to life the story of Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious woman ahead of her time, who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. It's her chance to prove herself a worthy journalist in a field dominated by men. There she also finds herself unexpectedly—and unwillingly—falling in love with Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.

On the eve of War World War II, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest's relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must forge a path as her own woman and writer.

Heralded by Ann Patchett as "the new star of historical fiction," Paula McLain brings Gellhorn's story richly to life and captures her as a heroine for the ages: a woman who will risk absolutely everything to find her own voice.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Gellhorn emerges as a fierce trailblazer every bit Hemingway's equal in this thrilling book." = Publishers Weekly

"This elegant if oddly bloodless narrative is a good introduction for those who know nothing of Gellhorn, but it basically rehashes information and sentiments already available in that writer's own memoir and published letters." - Kirkus

"In this heart-tugging follow-up [to The Paris Wife], we meet Martha Gellhorn, a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, who was the third—and perhaps most intriguing—of [Hemingway's] wives. The title says it all." - People

"Propulsive ... highly engaging ... McLain does an excellent job portraying a woman with dreams who isn't afraid to make them real... . Her work around the world ... is presented in meticulous, hair-raising passages... . The book is fueled by her questing spirit, which asks, Why must a woman decide between being a war correspondent and a wife in her husband's bed?" - The New York Times Book Review

"[The] scenes of professional rivalry and seesawing imbalance are some of McLain's best... . McLain's legions of fans will relish the inspiration of a gutsy woman who discovers she doesn't need a man at her side, after all." - The Boston Globe

This information about Love and Ruin was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cathryn Conroy

Slow-Moving Story That at Times Is Brilliant and Convincing, Except When It's Forced and Artificial
This is a novel that feels like a biography…that is, if biographies were written in the first person. This is a novel that also feels like a history book…that is, if history books were written in the first person.

Written by Paula McClain, this is a novel about Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway's third wife. (He had four.) After meeting in a truly serendipitous way, the two finagled it so they worked together as war correspondents during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Marty was fiercely independent, and as much as she loved Ernest, being a wife chafed against her wanderlust, autonomous soul. It wasn't easy being married to such a big and famous man for someone who wanted to be just as big and just as famous herself. When "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was published, Marty knew they were no longer a marriage of equals. Ernest would always be bigger and better—and that was a big shadow shading her every move.

This is a slow-moving story that focuses more on character development and historical narration—so much so that the plot seems like an afterthought. McClain makes every attempt to truly expose Marty's innermost thoughts and feelings, and the result is mixed: At times it is brilliant and convincing, except when it's forced and artificial. It's important to say that parts of this book are absolutely, totally engrossing, but there are more parts that are…well, quite boring.

There is one question book lovers enjoy asking each other: When you're reading a book you don't particularly like, do you stop or keep going? I ALWAYS keep going for one reason. What if it gets really good and I missed it because I stopped reading? That perfectly describes this book. The last quarter of it is astounding and totally worth plowing through the rest of it to get there.

It's not that this is a bad book; it's actually quite good. But it could be so much better!

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Author Information

Paula McLain Author Biography

Photo: Stephen Cutri

Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress–before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996.

She is the author of The Paris Wife, a New York Times and international bestseller, which has been published in thirty-four languages. The recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Ohio Arts Council and ...

... Full Biography
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Other books by Paula McLain at BookBrowse
  • The Paris Wife jacket
  • Circling the Sun jacket
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