Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Fiction Uncovered - Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

I was very lucky along with the reading group I run to be involved in the the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014 . As a group we were invited to read and review one of the 8 prize winners before they were announced and I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to read Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood. If it hadn't been for the fact that we were sent free copies I am not sure it is a book I would have picked up. However it ended up being a book that I couldn't put down as I eagerly turned the pages to find our more about the life and wives of Ernest Hemingway.
I rated the book 5 stars & would thoroughly recommend it to everyone. Here is my review:

I've heard of Ernest Hemingway who hasn't, he is one of the greatest writers of our time however I will rather shamefully admit that I have never read a single one of his novels or short stories.  I also didn't know very much about him as a man, all that changed the moment I opened Naomi Wood's book 'Mrs Hemingway'.

You are immediately thrown into the dying days of Hemingway's first marriage set against the backdrop of 1920s France. I fell in love with Wood's writing style from the first few pages as we begin to explore what is happening between the threesome of Hemingway and his wife Hadley and her close friend Fife.

'Lying next to him she wonders how it is she has lost him, although perhaps that is not quite the right phrase, since she has not lost him, not yet. Rather Fife and Hadley wait and watch as if they are lining up for the last seat on a bus'

Wood's gives us a look at each of Hemingway's wives in turn showing us how Hemingway could never be alone, capturing a rather childlike quality about Ernest and in turn we are given a small glimpse at the pain and destruction loving him caused. After reading his first wife Hadley's section in the book I found my heart breaking just a little bit for this woman who loves her husband so much she lets him go and imagine the pain of everyone knowing what has been going on behind her back. I also found myself simply hating Fife and the heartache she caused. However as the story moves forward and we meet Martha and Mary, as well as learning more about Fife I realise that my heart breaks a little for all of them. These were real women whose only mistake seemed to be loving Ernest Hemingway a little too much.

'At least in Antibes, there were three of them, Hadley had her, Fife has noone'

The book takes us from France to Key West in the 1930s, back to France during the Second World War & then finishes in Idaho in the 1960s. I found myself swept along with each wife's story and fascinated by the draw that Hemingway had on these women & females in general. I love how the Wood explores the friendships that Hemingway's wives had right up to and beyond his death.

'Apparently Hadley and Fife are even pals still:by Ernest's accounts his two ex-wives chat regularly on the telephone, talking of children and the proper care of Ernest. Martha & Fife have never spoken since that vacation in Key West. Why would they? She has proper respect for the rules of this game.'

As the book progresses we move from the glitz and glamour of Antibes and Wood's explores the darker side of Hemingway, dropping little pieces of information into the story around his father, his drinking and other things that led to Hemingway ending his own life.

I have really found it hard to put into words how much I love this book. I found it beautifully written and the author set a perfect pace that made me want to carry on reading as Hemingway's marriage to each wife unravelled. I loved how Wood was able to show us a great depth to her characters and how each wife's section was written in a way that helped that wife's personality shine through. The book was evocative of the times in which it was set and through the beautiful descriptions I immediately felt transported. I finished the book wanting more and will now be devouring the author's suggested reading list to learn more about Hemingway and his wives. At the end of the book I was left wondering which wife I would have most liked to of been, Hadley who seemed to remain Ernest's one true love, Fife who loved the man enough to let him go & never seemed to really get over him, Martha, the ballsy female war reporter or Mary who remained his wife until the very end. They were all such wonderful women brought to life through Wood's wonderful & captivating writing but I can honestly say that being a Mrs Hemingway wouldn't have been for me.

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