Mrs Hemingway

In the dazzling summer of 1926, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley travel from their home in Paris to a villa in the south of France. They swim, play bridge and drink gin. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamorous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley’s best friend. She is also Ernest’s lover.

Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last. Over the ensuing decades, Ernest’s literary career will blaze a trail, but his marriages will be ignited by passion and deceit. Four extraordinary women will learn what it means to love the most famous writer of his generation, and each will be forced to ask herself how far she will go to remain his wife…

Luminous and intoxicating, Mrs. Hemingway portrays real lives with rare intimacy and plumbs the depths of the human heart.

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Lately I’ve been enjoying this trend for historical fiction which has always existed in the publishing world but now it seems to have taken a different direction in which the author writes about a fictional character at the centre of factual events, or places them amongst factual people but this time Naomi Wood has written a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s tangled love life. Mrs Hemingway, the clue is in the title, is told from Ernest’s wife, Hadley’s point of view.

Narrated by Hadley, the prose is written in a brief, blunt style which mirror’s her thoughts. The chapter headings are also styled after their location and the date. It reads very much like a report or a treatment for a movie or documentary as opposed, to say, a flowing account of Hadley and Ernest’s life together. Hadley is very much an outsider looking in, even though as Ernest’s wife, she is supposed to be at the centre of things. This style has allowed Wood to radiate Hadley’s paranoia and frustration through the text and the reader feels as stifled and as out of place as she does. I felt as though I was keeping one eye on Hadley….the narrator….and one eye on Ernest and Fife, dreading what was going to happen next.

This will appeal to fans of Z: A Novel which really started this mainstream trend for historical fiction. Many books have followed such as The May Bride and The Winter Garden, incidentally they are new releases. Look out for my review of The May Bride in this week’s issue of The Lady. Mrs. Hemingway does not feel as fluid as Z: A Novel, but it’s a great read nonetheless.

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