Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Mrs Hemingway Naomi Wood

Rating: 2 Stars ★★☆☆☆

Everything, now, is done à trois.


In the dazzling summer of 1926, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley travel from their home in Paris to a villa in the south of France. They swim, play bridge and drink gin. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamorous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley’s best friend. She is also Ernest’s lover.

Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last. Over the ensuing decades, Ernest’s literary career will blaze a trail, but his marriages will be ignited by passion and deceit. Four extraordinary women will learn what it means to love the most famous writer of his generation, and each will be forced to ask herself how far she will go to remain his wife…


This book is told in four parts, each by one of the Mrs. Hemingways: Hadley, Fife, Martha and Mary. It starts in the 20s with Hadley living with Ernest Hemingway in Paris. But her marriage is coming to an end, with pretty, witty Pauline, called Fife, catching Ernest’s eye.

Ernest’s eyes are still closed though there is a flicker behind the lids. She wonders if he’s weighing both of them up now that he is awake. Should it be wife? Or mistress? Mistress, or wife?

Her part centers on her time on the Riviera. Her son is sick and she is in quarantine with him, her husband – and his mistress. She is fighting for her relationship but in the end, she agrees to a divorce.

Then there’s wife number two, Fife. She’s a woman of the 20s, utterly at home trading banter with the rest of the Riviera set. She’s rich and utterly in love with Hemingway. Her part starts at the same point in their relationship as Hadley’s – the end.

She would rather kill him than have him be the possession of a woman who is nowhere near her equal. This is why her love is better than Hadley’s, better than Martha’s. No one, ever, will love him like this: enough to see his brain smashed into rock or his lungs fill with brine.

Hemingway fell in love with Martha Gellhorn during his time covering the Spanish Civil War. Martha is a war correspondent, journalist and a writer. She’ll become his third wife. But she feels trapped by the marriage. She doesn’t want to spend her life on the beach drinking cocktails. Instead, she wants to cover the war ravaging Europe.

As the Second World War comes to an end, so does her marriage with Hemingway. In comes Mary, wife number four, whom he met in London. She’s also his last wife.

This story covers some very fascinating times and some really fascinating women. They’re all different but they have one thing in common (apart from Hemingway): this book manages to make them utterly dull.

We never get to know these women except in their relation to Hemingway. That’s pretty much what they’re reduced to. Hadley’s the pining wife, Fife ‘s the possessive one, Martha’s aloof and independent and Mary’s doting. It’s just not enough to make me care about them.

Ernest looks about to say something but doesn’t reply. Martha thinks how typical all of this is of him: he wants his wife, he wants his mistress, he wants everything he can get.

And then there’s Hemingway. From reading this book I have absolutely no clue why any woman would fall for him. This book manages to make him uncharismatic, boorish and, worst of all, boring.


Takes some fascinating women and makes their story pretty boring.


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