Celebrating 10 years of blogging this month with my first post: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As with all great classics, I am hard-pressed to say anything original about Gone With the Wind. This is my third reading and I still love the book. If you have seen the movie, but have not read the book, read the book. There is a great deal more that will only add to your enjoyment of the story line.

Some things I did not know about Margaret Mitchell made re-reading the book all the more interesting (thank you, Wikipedia). Mitchell’s maternal great-grandfather was from Ireland and settled on a slave-holding plantation in Georgia. Her grandfather fought in the Civil War and made a lot of money in the lumber business after the war (just like Scarlett!). As a young girl, Mitchell heard a lot of Civil War stories from her relatives and visited the ruined plantations in Georgia. And, most interesting to me was that her mother was a women’s rights activist.

I think these points are important because they give you a better understanding of the characters in GWTW. And I think the most interesting point is Mitchell’s portrayal of Scarlett as a shrewd and independent businesswoman during a time when no women ran businesses or even played a role in commerce, except maybe in selling pies like Mrs. Merriwether and taking in sewing and boarders like Mrs. Elsing. (Or Belle Watling’s business. Belle’s character is also quite modern, profession aside.) Mitchell also portrays Ellen, Scarlett’s mother, as the true head of the plantation, with Gerald as a figurehead.

Although I love this book, it is difficult to read the sections about slavery and the slaves on the O’Hara plantation. The O’Haras take pride in their kind treatment of their slaves, yet their language is clearly condescending. It’s a bad part of American history and all accounts of this time-period make me very uncomfortable and ashamed.

I think Mitchell’s description of the post-war period is very good and it shows what a mess Atlanta was and how the Southern way of life known and loved by its people was forever lost. I like how the characters, particularly Melanie and her followers cling to their committees and old customs, even when the Northerners take over the city.

There are certainly many, many other points to add about the characters and the book, Melanie’s goodness, Ashley’s displacement in the new South, and Scarlett’s inability to understand and appreciate the people around her until it is too late.

I like Rhett Butler the best. He is very modern, thinking it ridiculous never to mention pregnancy and birth control. He loves children and these things make him even more appealing. You want to forget how he makes his money, his drinking and what he does over at Belle’s house because he is so likable and smooth. His flirtatious conversations with Scarlett are so fun to read, but my favorite parts are when Rhett shows his true feelings to Melanie, and sadly to Scarlett at the end.

Like music? Check out my literary playlist of music to complement Gone with the Wind on Spotify.

Have you ever read the sequel to Gone With the Wind? I read Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley years ago. I read it because I was curious what may have happened to Scarlett and Rhett, but when a sequel is written by a different author, it doesn’t seem authentic. I don’t remember much about it, but I don’t think it was very good. I mean, how do you top GWTW?

And if you want to know more about Rhett Butler, check out Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig. Just as cheesy as Scarlett, but I couldn’t resist!

How do you feel about literature that depicts shameful periods of history? Can characters on the wrong side of thinking still be good? I have trouble with this, do you?

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Book Club Mom’s Short Reviews of Recommended Reads – April 2023

Weldome to a new feature on Book Club Mom: Short Reviews of Recommended Reads. I hope you’ll take a look!

Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray: I dove into this prehistoric story, Book 1 of Murray’s Dawn of Humanity trilogy, and wow, what a great portrayal of a world we can only imagine. Set 1.8 million years ago on the savannas of East Africa, we meet Lucy, an early human female from the Man-who-makes-tools group. Tragic events break up Lucy’s group and she joins another group, toolmakers, but different from her people. Pregnant, Lucy mourns the loss of her forever pairmate, Garv, but like all others, she must carry on in a world that is dominated by hunting and survival from starvation, attacks, extreme weather, volcanos and earthquakes. Lucy’s keen instincts, excellent hunting skills and knowledge of healing herbs and techniques prove an asset, yet other members resent her. They must all work together to survive, however, as they face many perils, including the ominous presence of Man-who-preys. Murray makes it easy to picture what life may have been like during this period, full of violence, but with equal amounts of emotional and social aspects.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio: Here’s a book you just have to like for its feel-good story and message. Fifth-grader Auggie Pullman has been born with a severe facial deformity, one that has required many surgeries. Previously home-schooled, his family enrolls him in a private middle-school in New York City. Not many people can say how Auggie feels to be so disfigured, to be stared at, made fun of, and worse. He has felt it all, yet he remains remarkably upbeat. Palacio does a nice job presenting Auggie’s character, through his own words. She continues the story through other characters’ narrations, giving us a wider perspective. Most interesting of these points of view is that of his older sister, Olivia, who has always loved and protected her brother, but begins to push away from that role. Olivia has lived in the background at home, with necessary attention being given to her brother. The overall message of kindness is perfect for readers ages 8-12.

Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan: I enjoyed this historical fiction story set in the prestigious Jewish neighborhood of 1960s Wynnefield, Philadelphia. It begins as Ruth and Asher Applebaum, newly married, move in with Asher’s parents, Shirley and Leon. Shirley, stung that the couple eloped, sets her mind on making Ruth, a confident and career-minded New Yorker raised by her father, into a well-mannered woman of society. That means looking your best, saying the right things and supporting your husband’s career. Ruth has other ideas. A recent graduate of Columbia Law School, she plans to study for the bar exam and begin a career helping battered women. The problem? Asher has not told his parents about Ruth’s plans. Shirley arranges for Lucy to attend grooming classes, led by Shirley’s close friend and socialite, Lillian Diamond. Together, with three other young women, they become the “Diamond Girls.” Ruth discovers that she may be able to help one of her new friends escape dangerous circumstances and she soon learns that these older women have a lot more to them than she thought. Light reading, a little heavy on the message, but an interesting story.

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Book Club Mom’s Short Reviews of Recommended Reads – March 2023

Weldome to a new feature on Book Club Mom: Short Reviews of Recommended Reads. I hope you’ll take a look!

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave: Hannah Michaels doesn’t know what to think when she reads a hasty note from her new husband, Owen. “Protect her” is all it says, referring, she thinks to his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. When Owen doesn’t return home from his chief coding job at a California software startup, and when police arrest the CEO for embezzlement and fraud, Hannah suspects that Owen is on the run. But why is Bailey in danger? With limited information, Hannah must decide whether to hide or seek out a hunch she has. Soon they’re in Austin, chasing down memories that lead to Owen’s secret and dangerous past. Here, Hannah faces a difficult and irrevocable choice, but she’ll do anything to protect Owen’s daughter. A fast, light and easy read about families and secrets, good for the beach or a plane ride.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: I liked this book that parallels the story of a young girl sent west on an orphan train from New York City in 1929 and a present-day Native American teenage girl who has struggled in the modern foster care system. I think Kline does an excellent job showing us how Niamh Power and these destitute orphaned children, both numb and frightened, must have felt as they traveled and met up with their matches, which were often far from perfect. In present day, Molly Ayer is a rebellious, Goth girl whose father has died and whose mother is addicted to drugs. Molly meets ninety-one year-old Niamh, now named Vivian, when she is assigned to a community service punishment for stealing a book. The two form a friendship as Molly helps Vivian sort through her attic and together they relive Vivian’s story.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: The Giver is a terrific thought-provoking middle school read, great for adults too. It is the story of a controlled society in which there are no choices or conflict. When Jonas turns twelve, he must train with The Giver and prepare to receive all the memories of love, happiness, war and pain. During his training, Jonas learns the hard truth about his community and its rules and knows he must act decisively to bring about change. The best part about this book is that every word counts. Lois Lowry is great at describing her characters and their community. She includes meaningful foreshadowing that leads the reader through a gradual understanding of what might initially seem like an acceptable way to live. She accomplishes this by revealing just enough details and we realize the facts just as Jonas does. The Giver ends just as you want to learn more. And thankfully, there is more to the story in Messenger, Gathering Blue and Son.

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Book Review: The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore

The Second Life of Mirielle West
Amanda Skenandore

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Here’s a book I picked at random and it turned out to be something entirely different from my first impression! Based on the cover, I expected a high-society historical fiction and although it begins in glamorous Hollywood, the story quickly takes a dramatic turn.

In 1926, Mirielle West, the wife of a silent film star, visits her doctor for a burn. During the exam, he notices a pale lesion on her skin. Concerned, he orders tests and soon, Mirielle finds herself in a boxcar headed to the U.S. Marine Hospital 66 in Louisiana, a quarantine facility for lepers. Without notice, she has left behind her husband, Charlie and their two young daughters. Because of the stigma associated with leprosy and to save his career, Charlie tells everyone his wife is visiting a sick aunt. Later, he changes his story: Mirielle has suffered a breakdown and is being treated at a facility. Hollywood gossip magazines run with the second story, citing Mirielle’s unstable behavior after their son’s tragic accident.

Here’s some background: Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease is a long-term, bacterial infection that begins with small lesions and a decreased ability to feel pain. It affects the nerves, skin, eyes and the lining of the nose. Advanced cases lead to disfigurement, loss of extremities and life-threatening complications. The first signs of the disease occurred as far back as 600 BC, but leprosy did not appear in the Americas until European colonization. At first, leprosy was believed to be highly contagious. Those infected were sent to leper colonies and forbidden to leave. At the U.S. Marine Hospital, also known a. s Carville and the only national leprosarium in the United States, patients who snuck out were jailed. Over time, doctors learned that the disease does not spread easily, but there were many uncertainties during Mirielle’s time at Carville. Doctors did not discover effective treatments until the 1940s. Carville operated from 1894 – 2005 and now operates as the National Hansen’s Disease Museum.

Mirielle arrives as a spoiled Hollywood wife who wants nothing to do with the other residents, certain she will leave the colony after a short time. But as her disease progresses, she builds a new life inside the colony. Although she misses her daughters and worries about Charlie’s distant letters, she realizes that all the patients at Carville carry sadness and hurt and long to leave. Sister Verena, the head nurse in charge of the infirmary and clinic, puts Mireille to work, where she excels. She befriends her housemate, Irene, who tells her, “I know it’s hard, baby. Took me months to accept it.” Frank, a longtime patient and World War I veteran, however, views Mirielle warily, especially when she shrinks from his extended hand. Readers sense an attraction, however, and hope they can find each other. Mirielle faces her greatest challenge when she meets Jean, a young girl, but a trouble maker, whose father abandoned her at Carville.

I enjoyed this story, although I felt it was a little long and a bit heavy on the medical descriptions, however, I learned a lot about a disease we rarely think about today. The author is a nurse, so that makes sense too.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Pat Spencer

Author Name: Pat Spencer

Genre: Thriller, Historical and Literary Fiction

Books: Story of a Stolen Girl (international thriller) and upcoming Golden Boxty in the Frypan (Historical Fiction) to be released in 2023 by Pen It Publications, and Sticks in a Bundle: The Early Years (Literary and Historical Fiction).

Bio:  Besides six states in the U.S., I lived in Canada and Germany. I love traveling and getting to know people and their cultures. When not writing or traveling, I golf, read, walk the beach, hang out with family and friends or frequent book clubs

What got you started as a writer? My second-grade teacher pinned my Christopher Columbus report on the bulletin board for parents’ night and then bragged about what a good writer I was. I was hooked. But then my career counselor in high school shared reports about how little money the average writer earned, so I went into education.

What is your writing routine? I write almost every day. I carve out time in the mornings and then again after lunch when I am home all day.

What route did you take to get your books published? I was pretty successful with my nonfiction writing. I published a textbook with the first and only publisher that I queried. Imagine that! I also served as a columnist for a large newspaper and as a columnist, reporter, and editor for a tabletop magazine. I also freelanced for a trade journal. I self-published my first novel, Story of a Stolen Girl. For my second novel, Golden Boxty in the Frypan, I sent out queries and accepted a contract offer from Pen It Publications.

What things do you do to promote your books? My favorite promotional activities are events: signings, book fairs, book club meetings, public speaking at community and service groups. I also post on my website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What is your favorite genre to read and why? My favorite genre is generally a crossover of literary and historical fiction because these books typically provide the depth of character development and insight into the past that I enjoy.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? I prefer to write emotions and the six senses. Both can be conveyed in either dialogue or description.

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Did this change the plot of your book The main character of my Sticks in a Bundle Trilogy surprised me by revealing more than I expected about her life and coming-of-age under the oppressive rule of apartheid. I thought she would tell me enough for one fairly thick novel, but her life was far too complex for that.

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? Earning a Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside while being a wife, mother, and full-time professor at Riverside Community College.

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life? Many people and experiences have contributed over time, too many to list here.

What would you tell your younger self? Finish college while you are young. I completed my Ph.D. when I was 50 years old and that was hard. Then go out into the world and be bold—travel, see the world, meet people different than you.

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? I have not met up with a bear, but if I did, I would toss all my food to him or her, and back away quickly.

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? If I only have water, I’d chose a candy bar, but not necessarily Snickers. I prefer a Heath Bar, Payday, or $100,000 Bar. If I happened to have a beer in my backpack, I’d choose Nacho Doritos. Why? Because I don’t like to eat salty things while drinking water. It reminds me of all the water I swallowed when I surfed and snorkled.

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? Probably 6 or 7. I like small kitchens and eating out.

Closing thoughts: I thank Book Club Mom for allowing me to share with you. Writing can be an isolating endeavor, so I appreciate opportunities such as this to talk with other readers and writers. If you would like to receive the traditional recipes my characters love to cook, log on to my website and send me a note.

Website and social media links:
Website: patspencer.net
Twitter: @DrPatSpencer
Facebook: Pat Spencer
Instagram: drpatspencer

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The Four Winds
Kristin Hannah

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve always liked stories of endurance and standing up for what is right. I also like sagas and historical fiction and The Four Winds checks all these boxes. The story is set in the Texas Panhandle in the 1920s and 30s, during the Great Depression, years of drought and continuous dust storms, and later in California during the great migration west. Throughout these hardships, Elsa Wolcott undergoes a transformation and discovers the strength she needs to protect and provide for her family.

Before this, Elsa has only known a life of seclusion. At fourteen, she contracted rheumatic fever and doctors tell her she has a weak heart. Her father’s prosperous business has ensured that the family lives well, but because of her condition, Elsa’s parents declare her unmarriageable. Besides, who would want a woman like her, overly tall, with thin and colorless hair and so unlike her pretty sisters?

Now, at twenty-five, Elsa knows she must do something to change her life. She takes the advice her Texas ranger grandfather. “Don’t worry about dying, Elsa. Worry about not living. Be brave,” he told her before he died. A period of rebellion leaves Elsa pregnant by an Italian boy named Rafe Martinelli. Upon hearing the news, her parents disown her and she must begin a life with Rafe’s farming family.

One of the reasons I like sagas is because I like reading about how events and the characters change over time, so I’m not going to describe what happens next. But you can be sure that the author includes plenty of developments to keep you interested, especially with the historical backdrop of extreme hardship. Hannah includes themes of the American Dream, perseverance, heroism, love and family countered by the Martinelli’s and other families’ stubbornness about leaving Texas. How can you give up on the land that provided for you?

I liked this book. It’s very readable, but it’s hard not to compare it to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I don’t think there is any book that better describes the plight of dust bowl farmers and the migration to California during the Great Depression. When The Grapes of Wrath was published, Steinbeck said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.” He put heart and soul into expressing his outrage over the treatment of these poor migrant farm workers and he did it with vivid descriptions and powerful characters. It’s a tall order to write another story as powerful as his.

That said, I am fascinated by this period of American history and the resolve of those who lost their farms and traveled west for a better life. I’d call The Four Winds a light version of a similar story.

Click here for a review of The Grapes of Wrath and stay tuned for a post about the Great Depression and the western migration.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

Like Kristin Hannah’s books? Check out this review of The Great Alone.

My Kindle is loaded!

Hi Everyone! I’m going to have a lot of time to read during the next five days so I loaded up my Kindle with potential books. It’s such a fun feeling to know I can pick any one of these, depending on my mood! I even threw a spooky read – I hope I can handle it 👻

I haven’t been on the blog much this month because my off-blog schedule has been crazy! Things will settle down next week and I look forward to getting back into my routine and visiting all of you!

Thanks so much for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Heather J. Bennett

Author Name: Heather J. Bennett

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Historical (1970s)/Romance

Books: Letting Go, Expecting to Fly

Bio: As a music fan, Heather focuses her writing on the undisclosed lives of musicians. She is the author of Letting Go and Expecting to Fly and the award-winning short story “Amsterdam” published through Southwest Writers. A native of Long Island, NY, she has been transplanted to Dallas, TX (y’all), where she works as a Marketing Coordinator.

What got you started as a writer? My 1st-grade teacher gave us an assignment and I’ve been a writer ever since.

What is your writing routine? I belong to a writing critique group that meets every Tuesday. A Zoom writing session every Thursday, another writing guild that has an ongoing café to use, plus a full-day writing retreat on the 2nd Saturday of each month, and in between, I try to write/edit at least 1-2 hours after work and on the weekends.

What route did you take to get your book(s) published? I am a self-published author learning more and more each day!

What things do you do to promote your books? I have a Facebook page, and an Instagram page, and am currently working on getting out now that the world is open again. I’d like to do some tabling events and readings. I just moved to the Dallas area and am still learning what it has to offer to authors.

What is your favorite genre to read and why? I like reading a variety of genres from YA to paranormal/supernatural to romance. I think I tend to read mostly YA because of the storytelling and they feel the most relevant to the world today.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? Oh, I much prefer dialogue!

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Did this change the plot of your book? My characters surprise me with every book! In Letting Go, my main character did something completely unexpected and I ended up crying at my desk – in the office because I was writing on my lunch break!

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? Getting a job offer here in Texas, finding someplace to live in Texas, flying home, packing up my house and storage unit, finding a mover, loading it all up and moving from New York – in FIVE DAYS. My new employer had no idea I was in New York – but I made it happen and it’s the best thing I’ve done.

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life?  1. Moving to the Netherlands for 4 years. 2. Moving to Philadelphia for 18 years. 3. Moving to Dallas. With each move, I discovered more independence, and more places to explore, and learned that most people want the same things in life no matter where they’re from.

What would you tell your younger self? You don’t have to be the next greatest American author – you just have to keep writing. It will still bring you joy and the most interesting, amazing people will come into your life through your efforts.

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? I’ve never met a bear on a hike – but there is that meme… if you see me running, you’d better run, too!

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? Oh, I always go for the Pop Tarts! They’ve got vitamins and nutrients, right? Almost healthy, even! (Doritos are a second choice, in case the vending machine gets stuck, but then I’d have Dorito breath….)

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? My kitchen only holds about 3. My friend’s kitchen, however? We had about 20 for Friends Thanksgiving each year.

Closing thoughts: I hope to be able to speak with you all soon!

Website and social media links:
Website: HeatherJBennett.com
Facebook: Heather J Bennett Novelist
Instagram: heatherjbennett_author
LinkedIn: heather-j-bennett

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray

Author Name: Jacqui Murray

Books: 6 books in the Man vs. Nature series; 2 Rowe-Delamagente thrillers; Building a Midshipman–the story of my daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy; and about 50 technology-in-education curricula books

Genre: Historical Fiction; Prehistoric Fiction

Bio: My first job was teaching in a dance studio I owned. That led to exporting wastepaper from a recycling center, installing cell phone antennas, and finally, a K-18 teacher. Because I had to write my own curricula, I realized I had a flare for writing and never looked back.

What got you started as a writer? Curiosity! I wanted to know how man survived when we had no defenses against the dangerous primal animals of our past. The available books dealt with artifacts and bones, not problem solving. It took about fifteen years, but I figured it out!

What is your writing routine? Because many of my daily tasks involve writing (teaching, write reviews for clients, and my own writing), I spend from 7 am to 6:30 pm writing. I take breaks every few hours, but my focus always is on writing.

What route did you take to get your books published? Like most of us, I tried to find a traditional agent for my first book, To Hunt a Sub. One showed interest, but we parted ways—amicably. When no one else stepped in to fill the void, I took the Indie plunge. I have never looked back.

What things do you do to promote your books? Other than my big book launch blog hop, I post to my Facebook page, my Linked In profile, and my Twitter feed. That’s about it!

What is your favorite genre to read and why? Westerns, hands down. The people in Westerns are hard-working, earnest, moral, task-oriented, and never quit. They share these qualities with my prehistoric folk so I enjoy reading how they solve incorrigible problems and face down enemies more powerful than they.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? No answer to that one! They both serve an important role in fiction.

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Did this change the plot of your book? A resounding yes! In fact, I have an article I’ll publish in October with a long list of “What I learned from my characters.” This isn’t the first time, either. I had the same epiphany with my thriller characters and prior prehistoric fiction characters.

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? There are so many, but arguably, the most difficult has been letting go of my two children. I want to step in, make everything right, tell them the decision they should make, but they’re adults. I can’t. They’re launched.

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life? It took a bit of thinking, but I figured this answer out: the forgiveness of God, the understanding of my family, and the purity of my many dogs.

What would you tell your younger self? Actually, nothing. There is a lot to be learned from mistakes. If I fixed all the things I did wrong, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? Because I read the Mountain Man genre, about the strong, independent folk who lived in the Rockies during the early 1800s, I actually know it’s not one thing. I would be aware of my surroundings. Bears have poor eyesight, so if I don’t move and I’m downwind, do they know I’m there? Is it a mama with her cubs (much more dangerous)? Is it a Black Bear or Grizzly? And all of that has to be calculated in about half a second.

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? Can’t eat chocolate so that answer’s easy!

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? 10.5 (hehee)

Closing thoughts: Thank you for this opportunity to visit with your community, Barbara. This has been a lot of fun with unusual questions (A bear? Really?) Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I’ll answer what I can!

Website and social media links:
Website: jacquimurray.net
Blog: worddreams.wordpress.com
Twitter: @WordDreams
Instagram: jacquimurraywriter
LinkedIn: Jacqui Murray
Pinterest: askatechteacher
Amazon Author Page: Jacqui-Murray

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Review: Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Love and Ruin
Paula McLain

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

You may know that I’m a big Ernest Hemingway fan. I’ve read all his books except To Have and Have Not and many of his short stories. I’m also a little obsessed with the person behind his books, how he started out and his relationships, especially with his four wives. I’d read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain years ago and liked it very much. That’s about Hemingway’s early career and his first marriage to Hadley Richardson. During those years, he wrote The Sun Also Rises, his first novel. Love and Ruin is the story of Hemingway’s marriage to Martha Gellhorn, his third wife. I didn’t know about her, but she was a novelist, travel writer, and a famous and fearless war correspondent, the only woman to land at Normandy on D-Day and report on the invasion first-hand. For sixty years, she covered every world conflict that was out there.

Hemingway wrote what may be considered his best book, For Whom the Bell Tolls, while he was married to Gellhorn. Before they were married, they had spent time in Spain reporting on the Spanish Civil War, while Hemingway was married to Pauline Pfeiffer. That’s when their affair began.

Love and Ruin is the story of two very strong egos. It’s about Hemingway’s overwhelming and selfish personality and Gellhorn’s insistence on having her own career, which meant being away from home for long periods of time. Hemingway hated that, felt abandoned and behaved poorly. In this account, Gellhorn was just as stubborn as he was and there was a competitive vibe between them, especially when his books did better than hers. I got the feeling that they both acted selfishly in part to one-up the other. It was obvious to me that Gellhorn was a formidable opponent, not the kind of domestic wife Hemingway really wanted. She was also a trailblazer for women and careers.

I liked Love and Ruin, but I didn’t think it was as good as The Paris Wife. The first half reads more like a history book and I had a harder time getting to know Gellhorn, even though it’s written from her point of view. I liked the parts that helped me see the early seeds of For Whom the Bell Tolls and I learned a lot about Gellhorn’s impressive career. I also learned some new things about Hemingway and his sad decline. McLain did a tremendous amount of research to write Love and Ruin and it shows. Gellhorn burned all her personal papers before she died, so McLain had to piece together what she could about their marriage. I enjoyed the second half of the book, which really dug into the meat of their marital conflicts.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Check out my review of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

Like Hemingway? Me too! Check out my reviews:

The Sun Also Rises

A Farewell to Arms

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The Old Man and the Sea

A Moveable Feast

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

“Hills Like White Elephants”

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”