I had hoped to have this review available for you all by Wednesday, but life is busy when you’re entering the last quarter of your MFA (this is my last masters degree! I promise myself right now), beginning the first semester of the college classes you teach, assisting your high schooler with cyberschool set up, writing a new novel (which might end up as a novella after all), and spending time with my first crafty love–crochet. I used to finish a book a week when my children were small. Now that three are adults and one is getting there, I have discovered that I’m actually a lot busier. So, I’ve been reading my way through this beautiful novel at night before I finally slip into a coma. The images and feelings that stay with me, are both beautiful and tragic. I loved this book, and I had fun making a hat that made me think of 1930s Spain.
The story is set in 1930’s Spain, where Civil war has destroyed much of the countryside, a lot of the cities, and most of the beautiful northern Basque Country. The freely elected socialist government of Spain has been challenged by the Franco’s fascist regime. While this is a fictional tale, the main characters are the Nobel Prize winning, Ernest Hemingway (my favorite author in the whole world, BTW) and his third wife, intrepid journalist and noted author in her own right, Martha Gellhorn. It’s in the midst of this bloodshed and horror, that both authors fall deeply in love and begin a several years affair that leads them from the battlefront of Spain to the steamy streets of Havana.
McLain does such a wonderful service to the wives of Hemingway. She’s written several books about the women who loved him. We don’t think much about him when we’re reading through their perspective on things. We’re thinking of the wives. We’re noting their successes and failures, their dreams and hopes, and we’re looking at the man of these stories in a very different way. Certainly, we’re looking at him differently than how he portrayed the main male characters in his own novels. If you’ve read For Whom the Bell Tolls, you might recognize Pilar, however, and if you loved Robert Jordan, you’ll see how you’re really loving Hemingway.
I don’t want to give away the story, because it’s worth your full attention, but the prose is simply stunning and the internal struggles–the depression, battle fatigue, loneliness, and passion–Martha experiences will feel personal to you, I promise.
“It was strange to be here, in a besieged city, where people were trying to kill one another and not get killed themselves. In the corner, the radiator clanked on, startling me, while in the distance, artillery fire came soft and stuttered. I felt too many things, and all at once, and wondered how I would ever sleep.”Love and Ruin, Paula McLain
For the pattern, I looked at some historical photos of northern Spain during the time period. Because I’m sure I’d side with the socialists on this (since this was the government Spain chose), I went in that direction with the hat. Hats are fast. This could be knitted just as easily if you wanted to do that.
Sorry the hat form’s face is all scarred. My children (1 adult and 1 teenager) decided this would make a nice play thing and stabbed it in the eye with a stick and tossed it between their bedrooms (you know, Mother’s things are not really things. Mother’s work is not really work. That whole idea). My brother decided to tan leather (or something weird like that) on my the ivory folding table that was just big enough to make a beautiful background and platform for photos. So now it has a huge yellowish blob permanently fixed to its surface. I used to work in a photography studio. I have some skills, but this ugly photo does not reveal those talents, because you know, the pockmarked face of the hat form and the yellow goop table. I had to use a corner window in the Ugly Old Farmhouse. Look a this past picture, below, as proof that once I had abilities.