Book Review | Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Authour:
Paula McLain
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 1st, 2018
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“I didn’t want to cause trouble; I only knew what I knew. That Ernest could eclipse me, large as any sun, without even trying. That he was too famous, too far along in his own career, too sure of what he wanted. He was too married, too dug into the life he’d built in Key West. Too driven, too dazzling.

Too Hemingway.” (p. 100)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Paula McLain talk for the second time. The first time was for her book Circling the Sun which is a fictional account about the life of Beryl Markham, a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. In her latest book, Love and Ruin she returns to Hemingway by telling the story of Martha Gellhorn, a prominent war correspondent during her time and the woman who would become Hemingway’s third wife.

Now I’m not a fan of Hemingway, despite the fact that he is a great writer, however I was incredibly interested in Martha Gellhorn’s story solely for the reason that I knew her as a woman who despised being a “footnote” to Hemingway as she was an accomplished writer on her own before and after her marriage. And even though I was unable to connect with Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun, I was willing to give Love and Ruin a chance since I was actually intrigued by Martha Gellhorn, the person in addition to the life she led.

I’m not as avid of a historical fiction reader as I used to be so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Paula McLain and Love and Ruin. However, I was pleasantly surprised that unlike Beryl, I was actually able to connect with the character of Martha. I loved her desire to jump right into the action and obtain the stories from the civilians themselves. And I could relate to her love of adventure, especially as she grew older.

For the majority of the novel, Love and Ruin is a quiet novel and not much happens. However, it does eventually pick up and of course, the prose is lovely from start to finish. That being said, Martha’s relationship with Hemingway often feels like an afterthought. As a result, I felt like the pair’s falling out came quite suddenly even if there were hints here and there of the cracks in their marriage. Perhaps this is why I found the sections where readers gain a glimpse into the consciousness of Hemingway to be a compelling read. In fact, initially, I actually preferred them over Martha’s story.

With Love and Ruin, Paula McLain has solidified her place as not only a writer of historical fiction but one who tells the stories of the women who are often forgotten in the mainstream history. These are the women who if even referred to in history books, may have been portrayed in not the most flattering way. From her books, I have enjoyed rediscovering the extraordinary women who have appeared in them so far and I look forward to seeing whose story she will tackle next.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

circlesunAuthour:
Paula McLain
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 361 pages
Publication date:
July 28th 2015
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Before reading Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun, I wasn’t entirely familiar with who Beryl Markham was or what she did. Additionally, I was only vaguely familiar with the setting of Circling the Sun because of the movie, Out of Africa. Thus for those of you, who similar to me aren’t familiar with who Beryl Markham was, she was the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic from east to west. This in itself was an astonishing feat when you consider the time period she lived in on top of what the expected role of British women was during this era.

Though I never grew attached to or felt a connection to Beryl in the book, I did find her voice throughout the novel to have an authentic feel to it. The prose throughout the novel was breathtaking whether it was the descriptions of wildlife and nature or the descriptions of the feelings Beryl felt as she raced and trained horses and flew planes. Throughout it all, it felt as if I was right there beside her experiencing and witnessing all the events that the narrator was going through.

I suppose part of the reason the narrator’s voice in addition to the story in Circling the Sun felt incredibly authentic was probably for the reason that it was evident that the authour herself put an enormous amount of work and research into it. Having met and heard the authour speak with reference to her writing process, including how she travelled to Kenya to visit several of the sites that held a connection to Beryl Markham; it is obvious that this novel was a labour of love for her. Another interesting item was how the authour spoke on the subject of how she felt a connection to Beryl since both their moms left them when they were kids and came back into their lives when they were in their 20s.

Thus while Circling the Sun was an extremely well-written book, it wasn’t the book for me. As much as I adore historical fiction, I prefer novels that focus on character relationships. Circling the Sun however, appeared to focus more on Beryl’s career rather than her various relationships and romantic encounters which felt like they were glossed over to make Beryl the character to be a more likeable person than the real life Beryl had been. That being assumed, if you desire a historical read featuring a strong, independent woman you may consider picking up this book. And if you do decide to pick up this book, I’d also recommend you listen to the soundtrack to the Out of Africa movie as it truly adds to the reading experience.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.