February 28, 2014 Leave a comment
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 the reliable 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
So, I was basically duped into reading this book. My wonderful wife was helping me with the process of borrowing digital e-books from our hometown local library on this little thing called the Internet, and she loaded a few suggestions for me. There was yet another Palahniuk book I had yet to indulge in (review coming soon), A book that inspired a Jennifer Lawrence movie that is about killing kids, but not as a national sport, and then there was Hemingway’s Girl. I could tell right away she was trying to tell me something. The conversation went a little like this:
“It’s about Heminway. You Love Hemingway.”
“Yeah, but it’s called Hemingway’s Girl. Sounds like a chick book.”
“Well, you did just read The Help.”
“Well, it featured primarily women, and was probably in every woman’s book club a few years ago.”
Well shit. I couldn’t fight this fact. So that was when I decided that generalizations and categories do not matter, and if it is a good story, it is a just a good story, no matter who primarily reads it. Also I realized I was just wrapping up Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist, which was yet another woman empowerment themed novel, which I enjoyed at least a little bit. So, I said to hell with it. Yes, this might turn in to a romance novel, but at least it will be yet another collection of fictionalized encounters with one of the greatest writers of all time, and that has to be something worthy of a bit of one’s time, right?
And I dare say, it was definitely worth the time. As one would expect, Hemingway was indeed not the focus of the book, rather than a very important character who, much like in his real life, could turn from antagonist to protagonist with one simple paragraph, or at least from one chapter to the next. The focus on the story is based around the ultimate tomboy and family provider Mariella, who finally “makes it big” as a housekeeper for the hotshot writer and his snooty wife during Depression era Key West. And of course, she falls in love with Hemingway, but not in a manner that you would expect. As a straight male, even I could understand that Ole Papa had a charm that had to have been undeniably attractive. For fucks sake, the man could dribble out beautiful poetry in yellow lettering in the snows of Idaho after draining a bottle of the Key’s finest rum better than almost anyone! And after that, he would challenge you to a boxing match, beat you at your best, and then put his arm around you whilst placing a fine Cuban cigar in your mouth. He was, as I have previously mentioned, a fine cocksman. But I digress.
Our heroine Mariella eventually falls in love with another man who should have been the sort of brute that Key West had been accustomed to seeing in the post Great War era. Soldiers and other service members still affected from the shit they had seen in France, long before we realized what Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was, who revel in life’s wildest adventures of boozing, fighting, fucking, and building highways for the man. But, her soon to be new beau was quite different. While he managed to earn some extra wages by beating the shit out of others in the boxing ring, he would prove to be the kind hearted and genuinely a wonderful person, and, yes in a womanly fashioned, I eventually became a member of “Team Gavin”, if I were to move into teenage girl references of today.
This is what really got to me, and made me realize that I was truly becoming engage with this story for all the wrong reasons. I was supposed to be rooting for Ernest! I should have assumed that all I wanted was for Mariella to fall in love with Hemingway, eventually sleep with him, and feel damned grateful for the opportunity. But alas, this story became so much more. It is a story of love of course, but it is also highlighted in the idealism of friendship, and how we are all the same deep inside despite such minute matters as wealth or poverty. The ability to care for one another in non sexual, non threatening ways is one of our finest human attributes that his not hardly embraced enough in this day and age.
Of course, in my now sick ways, I attributed Hemingway’s Girl, although a work of fiction, to be just another long winded example of how amazing Ernest Hemingway truly was. I can’t help it. I am quite the fanboy for this man who offed himself before my parent’s were even alive. I found this book to be a prime example of how (probably) humble Hemingway could be as well as how attractive and brilliant his work was. Of course as I mentioned previously, I wanted him to lose this round. I wanted Gavin and Mariella to see their love flourish and become something beautiful. And that is where I realize that I actually appreciated the wonderful prose and story telling of Erika Robuck. Even with a handicap of having one of America’s greatest heroes as main character, she still managed to pull of the impossible feat of writing a spectacular story without, even though it had, a well padded crutch to lean on.
In short, this is a great story, and is not primarily a romance novel. Although I will admit that most romance novelists would probably make this claim, but I will it up to you to read Hemingway’s Girl and let me know what you think. I just think it is a beautiful story, told beautifully as well, and as an added bonus, features a fictionalized version of one of the greatest writers of all time. What more could you want?
Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society. We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books. This is review #7. Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014. Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind. For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE. Enjoy!