The Hemingway Women: Those Who Loved Him -- The Wives and Others by Bernice Kert

I have read several Hemingway biographies, and in some ways this is the most interesting. This book prompted me to read Gellhorn's biography because I was so impressed with the way Ms. Kert brought these women to the page. Ernest Hemingway never gave up the stage willingly. He had to be front and center all the time. But Ms. Kert refuses to be dominated by him, and his lovers and wives are the main focus.

The strongest portrait, IMO, is the one of Martha Gellhorn. Mostly that's because Gellhorn had such a tremendous sense of self that she refused to be bullied by him, unlike the rest of the women in his life. She saw herself as his partner rather than a glorified maid. Needless to say, given the man's megalomania, that marriage didn't survive. Hadley Hemingway is the obvious first wife, sweet, devoted, and out of her depth once the Hemingways move to Paris. This leaves the door wide open for a sophisticated fashion journalist named Pauline Pffeifer to scoop him up. Not that Ernest put up a fight. She is surplanted by Martha Gellhorn, who eventually walks out on him near the end of WWII, and another war journalist, Mary Welsh, is waiting in the wings to take her place. Mary Hemingway comes across as the saddest and most pathetic of all the wives. By the time she entered the picture, Hemingway's battle with his mental demons was on-going, and his drinking began to escalate to astonishing proportions as he sought to treat his depression with alcohol. Determined to be Mrs. Hemingway, she withstood years of verbal abuse and downright cruelty.

His lovers weren't many, but he fell in love easily and as he aged, the guilt he experience during this affair with Pauline seemed to be a thing of the past. By the end of the book, you get the impression that Hemingway didn't like women very much, but he needed them. The only one of his wives that he was respectful of, even after their divorce, was Hadley, but then she never asked him for anything, ever. By the end of his life he wasn't speaking to any of his sisters, his vitriol toward his mother was epic, his relationship with Pauline was bitter and acrimonious, he couldn't speak of Martha Gellhorn without erupting into a rage, and he was brutal to Mary throughout their entire marriage. Ernest Hemingway cultivated his persona as a larger than life type, and it is to Ms. Kert's credit that he doesn't dominate the page. All of his wives and his lovers were interesting people, and they more than hold their own in this fasciating biography.



Debris and Detritus (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Pen and Prejudice (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Roux Morgue (available in hard cover, trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

Beat Until Stiff (available in trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

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