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Love and Ruin: A Novel
by Paula McLain

Published: 2018-05-01
Kindle Edition : 374 pages
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of The Paris Wife brings to life the story of Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious woman ahead of her time, who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of The Paris Wife brings to life the story of Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious woman ahead of her time, who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. It’s her chance to prove herself a worthy journalist in a field dominated by men. There she also finds herself unexpectedly—and unwillingly—falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.

On the eve of War World War II, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must forge a path as her own woman and writer.

Heralded by Ann Patchett as “the new star of historical fiction,” Paula McLain brings Gellhorn’s story richly to life and captures her as a heroine for the ages: a woman who will risk absolutely everything to find her own voice.

Praise for Love and Ruin

“In this heart-tugging follow-up [to The Paris Wife], we meet Martha Gellhorn, a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, who was the third—and perhaps most intriguing—of [Hemingway's] wives. The title says it all.”People

“Propulsive . . . highly engaging . . . McLain does an excellent job portraying a woman with dreams who isn’t afraid to make them real. . . . Her work around the world . . . is presented in meticulous, hair-raising passages. . . . The book is fueled by her questing spirit, which asks, Why must a woman decide between being a war correspondent and a wife in her husband’s bed?”The New York Times Book Review

“[The] scenes of professional rivalry and seesawing imbalance are some of McLain’s best. . . . McLain’s legions of fans will relish the inspiration of a gutsy woman who discovers she doesn’t need a man at her side, after all.”The Boston Globe

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of May 2018: Paula McLain said she was done writing about Ernest Hemingway after she finished her bestselling novel, The Paris Wife, but he crept back into her consciousness and six years later is Love and Ruin, an exceptional novel about Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. Love and Ruin is the story of their relationship, yes, but at its heart it’s the story of a driven and fearless young woman who became a force to be reckoned with in her own right. McLain takes readers from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War to the lush refuge of Hemingway’s Cuba as Gellhorn blossoms into a venerable war correspondent, while the already famous Hemingway pens his master work, For Whom the Bell Tolls. We watch over Gellhorn’s shoulder as she grapples with the horrors of war, falls in love with a celebrated yet flawed man, and agonizes with self-doubt about her strength as a writer; yet somehow she manages to stay true to herself through it all. Love and Ruin is a love story, the making of a trail-blazing woman, and most of all a spellbinding work of historical fiction. --Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review


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Discussion Questions

1) Martha tells us from the outset that, for better or worse, she is a born traveler. What kind of expectation does that set up about her personality and disposition? What character traits might “born travelers” have that others don’t?

2) Just before Martha meets Ernest, her father dies. How might that make her more impressionable or susceptible to Ernest’s influence?

3) How would you describe Martha’s outlook as she heads off to Madrid? What are her reasons for going? What did the war seem to mean to her, and to others who volunteered?

4) When Martha begins to feel Ernest is drawn to her physically, she initially resists, saying he’s “too Hemingway.” What does she mean by that? What is she afraid of?

5) Martha tells us that after three weeks in Madrid she felt she never wanted to leave, saying, “It was like living with my heart constantly in my throat.” How could that feeling be perceived as positive? What are some of things she loves about Spain? About her circle of friends and colleagues at the Hotel Florida?

6) When Martha finds the house in Cuba, the Finca Vigía, she falls in love with it instantly, even though it’s in ruins. Why? What does she hope to gain by restoring the property and living there with Ernest? What are the risks?

7) When Martha accepts the assignment to travel to Finland for Collier’s, Ernest says teasingly to their group of friends in Sun Valley that she’s abandoning him. Is it really a joke or is there significant tension brewing? What are Martha’s reasons for going? How does she feel about her work in relation to her personal life? Can the two coexist? Can she—or anyone—have everything?

8) Though Martha is the one who chooses the Finca as a “beautiful foxhole” to share with Ernest, the house eventually begins to weigh on her. Why? What is draining to her about domesticity? Does Ernest have the same ambivalence? Why or why not?

9) Although Martha loves Ernest and doesn’t want to give up her life with him, she has a lot of trepidation about marrying him. Why? What factors contribute to her anxiety? What does she stand to lose?

10) When For Whom the Bell Tolls is published in 1940, it’s a runaway success, selling more copies than any American novel before it save Gone with the Wind. How do the book’s success and Ernest’s intensifying fame challenge Martha as his wife? What about as a writer?

11) When Martha and Ernest go off to China, they’re both working as reporters in search of a story. How do their journalistic methods differ? Are they different kinds of travelers, with different worldviews? Would you say they’re compatible? Why or why not?

12) As the world plunges toward war, Martha feels increasingly compelled to go to Europe to try to write about what’s happening, while Ernest becomes obsessed with his sub-hunting “mission.” What are the instincts that pull them in opposite directions? Do we understand what drives them? Do they understand and have compassion for each other, or are they spiraling toward an impasse?

13) When Martha is finally convinced she must go to Europe to report on the war if she’s going to live with herself, Ernest feels more and more despondent and abandoned. Finally, he betrays her by taking her correspondent’s credentials from Collier’s, effectively replacing her on the masthead and making a place at the front lines impossible for her. Can we comprehend his actions and find empathy for him? Why or why not?

14) When the marriage disintegrates beyond repair, Ernest almost immediately finds a new love interest in Mary Welsh (who will become Mrs. Hemingway #4), while Martha turns to her work to ease her pain, finding strength in reclaiming her name and her independence. Do you think their contrasting strategies for surviving heartbreak symbolize the essential differences between Martha and Ernest as people? And do you believe that two such very different personalities could ever hope to find lasting happiness together?

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by Tbaker123 (see profile) 08/08/20

by jillkuykendall (see profile) 05/07/19

  "If you like McLain, you will like it."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 05/20/18

Love and Ruin, Paula McLain, author, January LaVoy, narrator
I have enjoyed reading the author’s previous books, but this one left me a bit cold. I did like it, but only as a beach read,
... (read more)

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