Author – Naomi Wood
Published – Feb 2014
Genre – Historical fiction
In a similar vein to Burial Rites this is a fictional account of real characters, and it is equally enthralling. I must confess that before I started the book I knew very little about Hemingway, and in fact I would have said that he was more of a womaniser and less of a serial husband. In fact the whole impression of his ‘hunting, shooting and fishing’ and the pictures that I was familiar with in his later life meant I hadn’t expected him to be much of a catch, but it transpires that the very opposite was true.
The book opens in June 1926 when Ernest and his first wife, Hadley, were staying in Antibes, and his lover was staying with them – which sets the scene for his unconventional lifestyle. The book is beautifully written and Wood really manages to transport the reader in both time and place. It spans the period from the difficulties in his marriage to Hadley in 1926 until 1961, after Hemingway’s death, and takes the reader from the lazy days of Antibes in the ‘roaring twenties’ through the liberation of Paris in 1944, into Havana and finally Idaho. I was particularly fascinated by the early part of the book and the friendship with F Scott Fitzgerald – oh to have been a fly on the wall!
Wood’s skilful writing gives each of the wives their own voice, so it’s very easy to recognise their different personalities and relationships with Hemingway. Perhaps it’s because it makes a change from my more usual staple of crime fiction or perhaps it’s the evocative writing and storytelling by Wood, but I was captivated by these women. Of course the largest character is the one that we glimpse through the eyes of the women he marries and my challenge now is to read both some of his own writing as well as find out more about him.
Many thanks to Picador for my review copy. If you’re interested in seeing some of the characters and locations from the book then you should look at Naomi Wood’s Pinterest boards.