Love and Ruin

Love and Ruin

by Paula McLain


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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.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • New York Public Library • Bloomberg • Real Simple

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 World War II, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and 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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101967393
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 49,958
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 7.93(h) x 1.14(d)

About the Author

Paula McLain is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Love and Ruin, Circling the Sun, The Paris Wife, and A Ticket to Ride, the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and two collections of poetry. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, O: The Oprah Magazine, Town & Country, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She lives in Ohio with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Near dawn on July 13, 1936, as three assassins scaled a high garden wall in Tenerife hoping to catch the band of armed guards unaware, I was asleep in a tiny room in Stuttgart, waiting for my life to begin.

Excerpted from "Love and Ruin"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Paula McLain.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

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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