Why a booktrail?
Who was the real Ernest Hemingway? His four wives paint an interesting and contrasting picture of him and tell their side of the story not in any of his famous novels
Story in a nutshell
Ernest Hemingway was famous for writing novels and infamous for his love of women. He married four times and was either a hopeless romantic or an old fool depending on your viewpoint. Hadley was his first wife – the original Mrs Hemingway who opens the novel with her experiences and life with the legendary writer. Then each in turn, the other women in his life tell their story.
Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages.
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
Place and setting
From his home in Key West Florida, to their summer vacation place in Antibes France, we travel with the Hemingways as their lives play out on the world stage but hidden from the world’s eyes. With brief sejours in Cuba and Spain too during the Civil war, this is a booktrail of some very iconic locations which formed the basis of much of Hemingway’s work.
Antibes and Paris, France
It’s the summer of 1926 and Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley is staying with him in a villa in Antibes.
The morning is already warm and the light has turned the white cotton sheets nearly blue
At night fruit falls to the grass with a soft thunk and in the morning she finds the oranges split and stormed by ants
A vivid picture – of something beautiful turned into something horrible so quickly – much like the Hemingway’s unravelling relationship. Yet the south of France locations shows how much the young Hemingways and their friends Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were keen to live the good life where ‘ the livin is easy’ is evoked in both the dinners they have, the sitting on the balcony and the general easy living of that era.
But behind the scenes Hadley yearns for Paris, its grey skies and the simple apartment there but then this was the place where she discovered Ernest’s affair in a letter. Suspecting it after having seen them whispering in the cathedral in Chartres, the fallout soon follows. This is also the location for a further fling – Martha the war correspondent to buy Ernest a book from the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the left bank. The literary side of the city is alive and well.
Cuba and Spain
Ernest spent much of his time here and its where Mary, wife four, spends time here with him. She likens it to Pemberley where she is Elizabeth Bennett –
When Ernest had driven up the Finca, the morning of her arrival in Cuba, she had immediately smelled hibiscus and lime. Before her was the most enormous white mansion, bright as a pebble in the Caribbean sunshine.
In Spain we visit via Martha, wife three, who worked with Ernest as a war correspondent during the Civil war. She is abused by him – he calls her a bitch and slaps her when she drives his car into a tree. But still, like the others, she stays
“Rabbit remember Spain, we need war so we can feel the force of each other. Let’s not go back to Cuba”
Spain was an exciting time in Hemingway’s life and provided his material for some of his greatest writing but it was a place of chaos in both his private and personal life.
Key West Florida
Ernest’s home in Key West is where we are when Fife ;s story takes up – it’s where she remembers their first kiss
“Where the shutters are open a breeze comes into the house from the Gulf crying in the scent of tamarind, frangipani, banana.
They, especially Ernest loves his old haunt of the Sloppy Joe’s bar and is where he ‘hides out’ when the going gets tough
The Hemingway is quite a journey across the world, via the voices of four wives as they each take it in turn to take us back in place and time – to their time with Ernest and life as a mistress then as a wife.
What a fascinating account of a great writer by the women who knew him best (and for the worst)
Each of the wives/mistresses in turn gave a new impression of the man and together with the jump from place to place, date and time, this created a vast and deeply interesting portrait of the man. The villa in Antibes was a holiday haven for one wife only to become a house of sin soon after. A walk on the beach in paradise when the topic of conversation was divorce, was anything but. But as one mistress became the next wife, Ernest seems to have lined them up as easy as a game of skittles – when he knocked them down the fallout was just as noisy.
I can’t help feeling sorry and relieved for Hadley – she saw how Fife replaced her and then as we see the situation trough Fife’s eyes, I felt karma come and kick her up the backside. Yet as Martha made her mark, I did feel sympathy for Fife….What’s going on here and how did Ernest manage to get so many women on side?
Would they really have jumped off balconies for him? Whatever the answer, this is a fascinating and only partially fictional account of one man seen through the eyes of a cycle, a merry-go- round of women.