Thursday, August 30, 2012

Julie's Review: Hemingway's Girl

Summary: “She remembered when Hemingway had planted a banyan tree at his house and told her its parasitic roots were like human desire. At the time she’d thought it romantic. She hadn’t understood his warning.” In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match...and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.  When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation...even as straightforward Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most.  Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams?  As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths...and the possibility of losing everything she loves. ~amazon.com

Review: I admit it, I've never read an Ernest Hemingway novel or short stories. Does that mean I don't know anything about him, not really. I only know the stuff that's been told in the media and by his family, and his family doesn't really say much. After watching HBO's Hemingway & Gellhorn, my interest in the man was piqued. Although I have to say my interest in Gellhorn was piqued a bit more.
So, going into Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck I had glimpses of him as a man but now I think I have a better idea of a who he might have been, even if it's told in a fictional novel. Hemingway, aka Papa, isn't the central character in the book, Mariella is and deservedly so. She's a force to be reckoned with by anyone in her path. Mariella's family recently lost her father to a heart attack and while her mother, Eva, is grieving it is up to Mariella to take care of the household. This means working to earn them money and making sure her younger sisters are cared for. She is wise beyond her 19 years. Her luck begins to change when she is hired on as a housekeeper for the Hemingway family.

Mariella quickly finds herself drawn to Papa. She finds herself fantasizing about him, even if he's a married man. Honestly, Ms. Robuck does an excellent job of toeing the line here because I swear there were times when I thought she'd give in and I'd have to chuck the book across the room. I believe it is her attraction to Gavin that truly stops her, even though she says he's a married man and she'd never cross that line. There's a point when her mother tells her that desire leads people to do wrong things. Desire can make forbidden things seems attainable.

What I loved about the novel is that we see Mariella grow. She was a young girl, who was in many ways lost and the job at the Hemingway's helped her to gain the self-respect she needed to follow her dreams. It gave her access to a world she wouldn't have known otherwise. I believe that her meeting Hemingway and for a while following him around like a puppy, led her to Gavin. It led her to the path she needed to find.

Mariella and Gavin brought out the best in each other. They complimented each other in ways that most people look for their whole life. It is Gavin's love for Mariella that makes her whole.
Ms. Robuck writes every character superbly. They radiate off the pages. It is easy to picture, Ada, the nanny drinking from her flask after dealing from a long day with the two children. You can picture, Pauline, even though a beauty, making herself ugly because of paranoia and jealousy. You can feel her pain when Papa is cruel and unjust towards her. That being said, there were a couple times that Pauline got what she deserved.

It is obvious that Ms. Robuck has a great love for Hemingway and for the things that he loved. It is obvious she took great care in researching Key West, the 1930s, the affects of war on the WWI soldiers and of course, Hemingway himself.

I loved the way the book ended with the letters that Mariella had kept all these years and with her up in his writing cottage having them read by her son.

If you are looking for an excellent, historical fiction novel that brings you to 1930s Key West, then pick up Hemingway's Girl.

Final Take: 5/5

Hemingway's Girl will be out in the world on September 4th, 2012.
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