Love and Other Ruins


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KIRKUS REVIEW

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A conscientious but critical and impatient step and adopted mother who professed to have no maternal instincts and eventually abandoned her adopted son with relatives, a wife who would not set aside her love of the field for her novelist husband, a good friend with no sense of nostalgia, Gellhorn was a complicated, intelligent woman who loved, but was practical and too adventuresome to be tied down to anything traditional. Perhaps focusing on the marriage to Hemmingway was a bad idea for in the end, for theirs is a story of escape and escapism and is filled with a sense of wrongness and doom.

Under the echo of bombs and while touring the country, she and Hemmingway become lovers. Eventually Gelhorn and Hemmingway marry, but the brewing war in Europe soon begins to drag them apart. While this fictionalized version of them has a certain Bogie and Bacall brio and a banter that feels quite in character, they want fundamentally different things from life from the start, and one can see the cracks forming even at the best of times.

Instead, we receive long bittersweet domestic interludes that are well written yet completely unnecessary to the story. Just as strong is her portrayal of life behind the battle lines of the war, of the depravation, depravity, her experience with the lost expatriates and jittery fear living under fear of enemy fire.

Love in the Ruins | Walker Percy | Macmillan

There are wonderful moments that explore her friendships with Lillian Hellman, Dos Passos and other members of the literary hoi polloi. When McLain keeps strong to the written record, she soars; when she must invent a reason for making the romance between these briefly-mated opposites compelling, she sinks. Was Gellhorn really thinking of Hemmingway while she was on the beach dodging bombs?

She already had a lover by then.

Did it surprise you that despite these differences, Hemingway was attracted to both women? Hemingway was attracted to both of these women because they are extraordinary. Both have great presence, both of them are deeply intelligent and interesting to talk to. Strangely, they are both from St. Louis and their birthdays are only one day apart. Did that experience shape you as a writer?

Oh absolutely, unquestionably it did! Being in foster care definitely did that for me. Martha Gellhorn was always searching for love and belonging. I never really talked about it. None of my friends knew that I was growing up in foster care because I was so embarrassed about it. To combat the loneliness, I lived in books.

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All my friends were literary characters because they felt more real to me than anybody around me. Looking back on it, I was probably educating myself as a novelist even as I read probably , novels myself.


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I also think growing up in foster care made me very sensitive to the emotions of other people, which I think has made me a good writer. What is the writing process like for you? Well, you already know that I believe in the subconscious and follow my dreams.

Paula McLain

I think inspiration — the force that draws us to a certain place or a certain idea or certain people — is very mysterious. I pay attention and have a great deal of faith in my emotional response to everything. I become completely obsessed, reading everything I possibly can, and throwing myself into the research. As a reader, I want to be completely borne up and swept away by a story.


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People tell me I have a gift for channeling the voices of the women I write about, but all I do is surrender and trust the process will take me to the book. Before The Paris Wife , I had never done research for a novel. Where did your research for Love and Ruin take you? Well, I believe in the process of immersion, so I read dozens of first-hand accounts of war correspondents who covered the conflicts Martha did.

Love in the Ruins

So the house is much as he left it — his library is there and the whiskey is still in the bottle. Standing in his closet looking at his shoes made me weep. Do you see parts of yourself in the women you write about? But Martha is the character I identify with most, particularly in her struggles: Can you have it all?

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