Review of “Love and Ruin” by Paula McLain

McLain, Paula. Love and Ruin. New York: Ballantine Books, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-1-101-96738-6. $28.00 USD. 

5 starsis

I had read The Paris Wife ages ago around the time it first came out, and somehow, Paula McLain disappeared from my radar after that until I heard she had released another book about Hemingway. And much like the prior book, Love and Ruin is wonderful, reimagining the life of a woman who I had known little about prior to reading the book, and now feel she is someone who was overlooked during her lifetime, due to her connection to one of the most famous American writers.

While I wasn’t sure going in what I would think of the story’s trajectory, given the bare facts of Hemingway’s complicated love life, I was quickly won over with the “voice” of McLain’s Martha Gellhorn and found her a historical heroine worth rooting for, despite knowing that her decisions in her relationship and marriage would lead more to “ruin” than “love” in the long run. Not only did I admire her ambition to be seen for her own merit, but I also could identify with her difficulties with balancing her domestic and professional lives, an issue which continues to this day. It is wonderful to see everything Gellhorn worked for to make a name for herself come full circle as another female writer who shares some of the same struggles publishes her story, so that we can have a a fuller appreciation for such a wonderful, underappreciated, and sometimes maligned, historical figure.


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