Book Review: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway

In 1928, Ernest Hemingway stored two steamer trunks at the Ritz Hotel in Paris and didn’t retrieve them until 1956. Inside the trunks were notes and papers from his days in Paris, during the time when he wrote his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and was married to his first wife, Hadley Richardson.

Seeing these notes prompted Hemingway to begin working on a memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation”, a term attributed to Gertrude Stein.  By the 1950s, however, Hemingway was suffering from many conditions, injuries resulting from two serious plane crashes, poor eyesight, depression and different paranoias.  He committed suicide in 1961, leaving the book unfinished.  After his death, his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, edited the manuscript and the first edition of A Moveable Feast was published in 1964.

My interest in the Lost Generation started a few years ago after I read The Sun Also Rises and then read more about Paris in the 1920s and of the talented writers and artists who lived there and met in the city’s cafés.  Then I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a terrific historical fiction about Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson.  After that, it only made sense to go back to the source, A Moveable Feast.

It’s fascinating to me that so many talented people were all together in Paris.  Did they know they were part of this creative burst?  Some of the well-knowns were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.  Others included Wyndham Lewis, Ford Maddux Ford, and Ernest Walsh, names I didn’t know, but enjoyed reading about.

The book reads a lot like Hemingway’s fiction.  His simple writing style is identical.  Hemingway presents a vivid picture of this time period and, in particular, talks easily about his relationships with Hadley, Stein, and Fitzgerald.  I liked reading about his disciplined approach to writing and his desire for perfection.  He was very focused on writing what he called “true” sentences and was not happy unless he had put in a productive time writing, often in cafés or in a sparse rented room.  I think he makes it very clear how hard writing is and how devoted and conscientious a writer must be.

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.

Hemingway and Hadley seemed very happy in their marriage, despite being poor.  He describes an easy and affectionate relationship.  This is, of course, before his affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, who would become his second wife.  He seems to deeply regret hurting Hadley and writes:

The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book.  I wrote it and left it out.  It is a complicated, valuable and instructive story.  How it all ended, finally, has nothing to do with this either.  Any blame in that was mine to take and possess and understand.  The only one, Hadley, who had no possible blame, ever, came well out of it finally and married a much finer man than I ever was or could hope to be and is happy and deserves it and that was one good and lasting thing that came of that year.

His relationship with the American writer and art collector, Gertrude Stein, gave him confidence, but lasted only a few years.  In the book, Hemingway explains the friendship and tries to understand why it ended.

Hemingway also discusses his friendship with F. Scott Fitzgerald, including Scott’s marriage to Zelda.  He recognizes a great talent, but even before Hemingway meets Zelda, he can see Fitzgerald’s life and marriage spiraling.  After reading The Great Gatsby, Hemingway understands his role as a friend.

When I had finished the book I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how preposterously he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend.  He had many good, good friends, more than anyone I knew.  But I enlisted as one more, whether I could be of any use to him or not.  If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby I was sure that he could write an even better one.  I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him.  But we were to find out soon enough.

Other topics include horse racing, boxing, eating, drinking and writing in cafés, skiing in the Austrian Alps and the story of how Hadley lost all his papers and previous manuscripts on a train.  I very much enjoyed reading about Hemingway during this time, although I’m sure it is subjective.  I had read that Hemingway was very difficult to live with – that seems to be left out here, except for one reference to his own hot temper.

My earlier impression of an aimless group of hard-drinking and pleasure-seeking writers and artists changed a bit after reading his account and I recommend the book to anyone who wants to know more about Hemingway and this group.

Some side notes:

You might like these other Hemingway books and short stories:

The Sun Also Rises
A Farewell to Arms
The Old Man and the Sea
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
“Hills Like White Elephants”
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

You can find a lot of information about Hemingway online.  Click here to view his Wikipedia page.

A sad history of suicide has plagued generations of Hemingways, beginning with Ernest Hemingway’s father.  Hemingway’s sister and brother also took their own lives, as did his granddaughter, Margaux.  In an effort to understand and avoid this trap, Margaux’s sister, Mariel made a documentary entitled “Running from Crazy”.  You can read a CNN article about this 2013 film here.

The Restored Edition of Hemingway’s memoir was edited by his grandson Seán Hemingway, who is a curator of ancient art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Seán also wrote the introduction.  Hemingway’s son Patrick (from his marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer) wrote the foreward.  This edition is different from the first, in that the chapters are ordered differently and a few extra sections are added, including transcriptions of Hemingway’s false starts for his introduction.  Some people were critical of Mary Welsh’s introduction and her editing and this newer version seeks to share all the parts of his manuscript.  I enjoyed reading an interesting article about The Restored Edition of A Moveable Feast from

Hemingway had a hard time with marriage and was married four times. Read more about his wives on Wikipedia:

Hadley Richardson
Pauline Pfeiffer
Martha Gellhorn
Mary Welsh

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Five-Star Short Fiction

I think short fiction is one of the greatest types of literature. The compressed stories, intense situations, surprising ironic twists and abrupt finishes are some of the things I love about short stories. They always leave me thinking! Here’s a list of my favorites. What are yours?

a rose for emily pic


“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner



Best American Short Stories 1993


“An Angel on the Porch” by Thomas Wolfe


Babylon Revisited


“Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald



Best American Short Stories 1994


“Cold Snap” by Thom Jones

Scribner Anthology big


“Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood

Scribner Anthology big


“Gryphon” by Charles Baxter

in the gloaming


“In the Gloaming” by Alice Elliott Dark

Best American Short Stories 1993


“Red Moccasins” by Susan Power

Scribner Anthology big


“Same Place, Same Things” by Tim Gautreaux

the chrysanthemums pic


“The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck

The Horse Dealer's Daughter new


“The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” by D. H. Lawrence

The Most Dangerous Game


“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell

The Necklace pic

“The Necklace”
by Guy de Maupassant

The Oblong Box


“The Oblong Box” by Edgar Allan Poe

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty new


“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber


“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”
by Ernest Hemingway

the joy luck club pic


“Two Kinds” from The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan



I also enjoyed these collected stories by two of the greatest short fiction writers:

Dear Life cover


Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro







Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood



What’s your favorite genre?  Leave a comment and let’s get talking!

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the original cover. Check out the story behind it at the bottom of my post!
This is the original cover. Check out the story behind it at the bottom of my post!

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald


Jay Gatsby is a mysterious tycoon.  He builds a fortune, buys a mansion in fictional West Egg, NY, across the bay from Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s old-money mansion in East Egg. In an effort to win back the girl he loves, Gatsby throws lavish parties, hoping Daisy will show, or at the least, that he will meet someone who knows her. What follows is a story of wealth, marriage, excess and the romantic notion that you can repeat the past.

Set in 1922, these characters live during the wild party atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties. The Great Gatsby is about a time when new money moves into the old money world and about the contrasting lives of all classes, including the very poor who live in “the valley of ashes,” a desolate area between Long Island and the city.

If you’ve never read The Great Gatsby, that’s enough to get you started. Besides money, it’s a great story about love, romance, marriage and betrayal, with well-placed foreshadowing and a tragic plot-twist at the end.

I hadn’t read The Great Gatsby since college and it was fun to go back and pick up on things I’m sure I missed way back then! I think this is a great book to re-read because of the dialogue – Fitzgerald’s characters say a lot of things that mean a great deal more when you read the book a second or third time.

Here are some of the things I liked this time:

  • I like how Fitzgerald includes Jordan Baker’s character and how he suggests that Jordan has been dishonest in the past. She seems smooth and professional and successful, but her small lies, at least regarding her golf game, still trail her, if you look closely. Gatsby, also of questionable background, tells Nick that Jordan has a good reputation. “Miss Baker’s a great sportswoman, you know, and she’d never do anything that wasn’t all right,” he says.
  • I like all the foreshadowing with the cars and about driving and about accidents. I like the discussions about being bad drivers and how the best way to avoid another bad driver is to pair up with a good driver. I like the literal and symbolic parallels.
  • I love how, when Nick asks Gatsby what part of the Mid-West he’s from, he answers, “San Francisco.” It’s a great example of showing how Gatsby is lying, rather than just saying so.
  • The whole theme of past versus present and recreating the past is always a very interesting subject, because it’s emotional and romantic. Gatsby is sure he can recreate the past, Nick isn’t so sure and Daisy, in the ultimate confrontation at The Plaza, says, “I can’t help what’s past,” admitting she also loved Tom and crushing Gatsby’s dream.
  • Nick Carroway’s strong desire to believe Gatsby, despite everything that suggests a dubious past. When Gatsby finally explains his Oxford connection, Nick says, “I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. I had one of those renewals of complete faith in him that I’d experienced before.”
  • I also like how Fitzgerald includes Meyer Wolfsheim’s character, who is based on the very real Arnold Rothstein, the legendary kingpin of the Jewish mob during the 1920s. Wolfsheim only appears a couple times, but his name comes up a lot and as the story goes on, he’s the key to knowing about Gatsby and how he’s made his money.

The Great Gatsby is a classic. It wasn’t a success while Fitzgerald was alive. Some people love it, some don’t, and lots of high-schoolers read it in their English classes. I enjoyed it very much and particularly liked comparing it to the movies made in 1974 and 2013. Those movies are shockingly different, but similar in many ways. But that’s tomorrow’s blog!

Here are a couple links that I found interesting:

PBS website called The History Kitchen – an overview of Prohibition during the Roaring Twenties, The Great Gatsby, and a recipe for “The Bees Knees” cocktail

Here’s something interesting from Wikipedia about the original cover of The Great Gatsby:

The cover of the first printing of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of art in American literature. It depicts disembodied eyes and a mouth over a blue skyline, with images of naked women reflected in the irises. A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel; Fitzgerald was so enamored with it that he told his publisher he had “written it into” the novel. Fitzgerald’s remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of fictional optometrist Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (depicted on a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson’s auto repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as “blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.” Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the “girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs.” Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast that when Fitzgerald lent him a copy of The Great Gatsby to read, he immediately disliked the cover, but “Scott told me not to be put off by it, that it had to do with a billboard along a highway in Long Island that was important in the story. He said he had liked the jacket and now he didn’t like it.”

For more Gatsby, click here for reviews of the 1974 and 2013 movies.

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The Great Gatsby – 2013 movie

The Great Gatsby movie
I think Leonardo DiCaprio looks a lot like Robert Redford in this movie!

Last night I watched the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby. I knew it was going to be different and I was curious to see why. I read the book once in high school and again in college and I’ve seen the 1974 movie a couple times, but that was a long time ago! Now all I want to do is watch the 1974 movie again and re-read the book, so I can compare them all!

The Great Gatsby movie orig
Now I’m going to re-watch the 1974 movie!

Have you seen the 2013 movie? What did you think?

The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and is considered one of the greatest books in American Literature.

The Great Gatsby
And of course, these movies are based on this great book!

Here’s some information about the two movies and a couple other adaptations:

The Great Gatsby (2013) in 3D, was directed by Baz Luhrmann. Luhrmann is an Australian film director who has also directed Australia (2008), Strictly Ballroom (1992), Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Romeo + Juliet (1996). Luhrmann and Craig Pearce co-wrote the screenplay. This movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Toby Maguire as Nick Carraway.

The earlier version of the The Great Gatsby was released in 1974 and was directed by Jack Clayton. Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay. This movie stars Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan, Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan and Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway.

There have been other film adaptations of The Great Gatsby: a silent film in 1926 starring Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson and a 1949 film starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field. A TV film was made in 2000, starring Toby Stephens, Miro Sorvino and Paul Rudd.

Thanks to and Wikipedia for this information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon for a comparison of all three!

Short story review: “Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom. Short reviews of short fiction.

“Babylon Revisited”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When Charlie Wales returns to Paris, it’s a very different place. Only a few stragglers of the Lost Generation remain. Charlie proclaims he’s a changed man. He’s lived recklessly and lost everything and his wife is dead.  Now he has returned to reclaim his nine-year-old daughter from his sister-in-law and her husband, who have been raising her. Once again financially sound, Charlie proclaims to take only one drink a day, a trick he says he uses to keep himself sober.

This is an excellent short story. Fitzgerald describes the reckless days of Americans living in Paris during the Jazz Age, and the regrets Charlie faces when he returns. Despite Charlie’s earnest demeanor, you’re not quite sure about him. When you hear about his earlier years in Paris, including how he locked his wife out of their apartment during a snow storm, it’s hard not to consider this past. And when his drunken, partying friends seek him out, you’re not sure he will resist.

I really love reading about messy situations and flawed characters. This story, like much of Fitzgerald’s fiction, is based on experiences in his own life. He has a great talent for describing these complicated relationships and painful pasts. And, despite a feeling of ruin, there’s somehow hope in Charlie’s future.

Like all short stories by great authors, “Babylon Revisited” is a terrific way to sample and enjoy classic writing. It was first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is widely viewed as one of the greatest American writers in the 20th century. He is also considered a member of the Lost Generation and wrote much of his fiction during the Roaring Twenties. The Jazz Age is a term he coined and represents the reckless nature of these times. “Babylon Revisited” was adapted into the 1954 movie The Last Time I Saw Paris, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson.

In addition to many short stories, Fitzgerald completed four novels: This Side of Paradise (1920); The Beautiful and the Damned (1922); The Great Gatsby (1925); and Tender Is the Night (1934). The Love of The Last Tycoon (1941), an unfinished novel, was published after his death.

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Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife
Paula McLain

I never knew about Ernest Hemingway’s wives and was very interested in learning about his first wife, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson and their six-year marriage, spent mostly in Paris, where they immersed themselves in the world of the Lost Generation and mingled with famous writers, poets and artists.

It was during this time that Hemingway made his name as a writer, first with short stories and ultimately with his first novel The Sun Also Rises. Having recently read The Sun Also Rises, I was also interested in knowing the actual story of Hemingway and his pack of friends who traveled to Pamplona, Spain to watch the annual running of the bulls and bullfights. It is an amazingly similar cast of characters.

I liked drawing the comparisons, which was easy to do, and I liked seeing Ernest and Hadley meet up with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and other lesser-known writers on the scene.

I think the author did a very good job reflecting the mood of the era, which included heavy drinking, aimless travel, and senseless dialogue that simmered with an angry undercurrent.

I also liked learning about Hemingway’s writing schedule and how many times he reviewed and edited his work. I imagine he was very difficult to live with and it must have been hard for Hadley to be around so many creative types and rich and stylish tag-alongs, without being either fashionable or a serious artist or writer herself.

I didn’t check, but this account seems to be true to the facts and the whole book an enjoyable read.

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