"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review #21: Hemingway's Girl, by Erika Robuck

Mariella Bennet is a young girl living in Key West in 1935, struggling to make ends meet and support her family after the death of her father, when she meets Ernest Hemingway at a boxing match. Young and gorgeous, Hemingway is immediately entranced by her, and hires her to work as a maid in his home. In the hands of a more predictable writer, they would fall in to a brief and torrid love affair, leaving Mari devastated and alone once Hemingway moved on.

But Robuck takes a different turn, and that's where things get interesting. Mari and Hemingway become friends of a sort, and while there is definite tension and a definite attraction, they both know that to cross the line would destroy their friendship, and they want the friendship too much to take the risk.

The novel also chronicles Mari's burgeoning relationship with a young boxer and former World War I veteran, Gavin Murray, who is working on the Overseas Highway in the middle Keys. Floridians who know their hurricane history know that the Overseas Highway was destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, and thousands of workers and their families were killed because they weren't evacuated in time.

Robuck closes out the story with letters between Hemingway and Mari. It's a risky move, putting her words in Hemingway's mouth, and I'm not sure she suceeded, but it was an interesting way to wrap things up. In the end, I felt myself hoping that Hemingway actually did have a friend like Mari, someone who saw through the bluster and the bravado, and loved the man for who he was despite, or perhaps because of, his flaws.

Note: Robuck recently published Call Me Zelda, which has gone on my must-read list.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. This book has been on my bookshelf for about a year but I haven't had the chance to actually read it yet. I'm thinking it will be on my summer-read list and I'll read it on the beach next month. A book about Hemingway just screams out to be read while on the beach.

    Ashley - Closed the Cover