As we head into the holiday season, most of us anticipate sharing time with friends and family: those people who love us, assist us and bring joy to our lives. Traditionally, women have played the supporting role in the family, taking care of the everyday business of life to smooth the paths for husband and children, sometimes at the cost of their own ambitions and talents. This month we’ll look at fiction that focuses not on two famous, almost mythically larger-than-life men, but on the private lives of the often-overlooked women they married.
Starting with the brilliant, we have THE OTHER EINSTEIN by Marie Benedict. Abandoning the usual early twentieth-century female role of wife and mother, Mitza Maric earned a coveted place studying physics at an elite Zurich university. There she met another, equally brilliant student – the young Albert Einstein. Though Mitza had pledged with several fellow female students to avoid marriage and devote her life to science, she eventually agreed to wed Einstein, with whom she worked and collaborated – there are even proponents who believe she, not Albert, was the true author of the theory of relativity. In any event, her husband removed her name as co-author from the papers he published during their marriage. After two sons and increasing turmoil, and evidence that her husband was romantically involved with a cousin who later became his second wife, Mitza left and eventually divorced him. Leaving behind a wistful wonder of who, and what, she might have become in the scientific world had she not become the first Mrs. Einstein.
From the genius of Einstein we move on to a man who was possibly brilliant, certainly famous, and perhaps an archetype for a dying breed of macho, risk-taking outdoorsmen—who expected adulation and support from the women around them. Earnest Hemingway would win medals for bravery, world acclaim, a Pulitzer Prize—and go through four wives in the process.
We begin with THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain, the blockbuster novel that first delved into Hemingway’s world through the eyes of his wife–specifically his first wife, Hadley Richardson. This shy twenty-eight-year-old had lived a quiet life, trapped into caring for her invalid mother when she met the charismatic, handsome twenty-year-old Hemingway. After a brief courtship, they married and moved to Paris, where the ambitious young writer immersed himself in the literary world of the “Lost Generation”—Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But although Hadley was his “rock,” and did all she can to support her husband, eventually she would lose him to the hard-drinking, amoral society of Paris. Finally divorcing Hemingway after learning of his affair with the woman who would become his second wife, Hadley nonetheless cared for the man all her life, befriending his later wives and never losing her concern for Hemingway’s well-being.
After the success of her portrait of Hemingway’s first wife, Paul McLain returns with LOVE AND RUIN, a story of his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. Intrepid and driven, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn traveled alone to Madrid to report on the Spanish Civil War, where she was captivated by the tales of the common people caught up in the conflict—and by already-famous writer Ernest Hemingway. Though like Mitza Maric, Martha was determined to focus on her own career, she was nevertheless eventually persuaded to marry Hemingway. Throughout the late ’30s and ’40s, the two pursued their writing destinies, she as a war correspondent following conflicts in China and Europe between stints at Hemingway’s idyllic retreat in Cuba, he goes on to publish his most famous work, For Whom the Bell Tolls. But despite pressure from Hemingway and doubts about her own talent as a writer, Martha ultimately decided she couldn’t continue to compete for the top jobs in a man’s profession and remain Hemingway’s wife. In a bitter break, she left the man she called “a bully” and struck out on her own.
Our final selection gives us insight into the lives of each of the four women Hemingway married. In MRS. HEMINGWAY: A NOVEL, author Naomi Wood divides her work into four sections, each a first-person narrative written from the point of view of the wife, the author’s insights based on diaries and the love letters and telegrams exchanged between the couple. From the heady early courtships, we follow them through the cooling-off of passion and ultimately, inexorably, to the infidelities that eventually destroy each marriage. Along the way, we are treated to vivid depictions of bohemian Paris, the tropical paradises of Havana and Key West, the vast west of Idaho, and Hemingway’s many stops in-between, from skiing in the Alps to the war-torn landscapes of Spain, Europe, and China. For each wife, passionate early love eventually leads to betrayal and heartbreak. Yet such was the mesmerizing personality of the man that despite their personal pain, all but Martha remained under Hemingway’s spell, befriending each other and consulting over the novelist’s health and happiness throughout his life.
Would you be content being a bag-handler for some larger-than-life figure? The light cast upon that role by this month’s selection of historical fiction might help you answer that question!
Shunned by the
How would she find a husband?
Part of Sisters of Scandal: After her mother’s latest outrageous affair, innocent Prudence Lattimar has fled to Bath.
With her dubious background, she must marry a man of impeccable reputation. A clergyman with a title and a considerable income would be perfect.
She must steer clear of Lieutenant Johnnie Trethwell—his family is as notorious as hers, no matter how funny, charming and unfailingly honorable he is!
Romance Historical [Harlequin Historical Romance, On Sale: October 1, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781335522931 / eISBN: 9781488087004]
About Julia Justiss
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family’s East Texas homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen’s Regency England.
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing historical fiction.
Regency Silk & Scandal | Hadley’s Hellions | Ransleigh Rogues | Whiskey River Christmas | Sisters of Scandal | Wellingfords
BOOKS FEATURED IN THIS ARTICLE:
One of PopSugar’s “25 Books You’re Going to Curl Up with this Fall.”
In the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow. It is the story of Einstein’s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated and may have been inspired by her own profound and very personal insight.
Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.
Women’s Fiction Historical [Sourcebooks Landmark, On Sale: August 29, 2017, Trade Size / e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9781492647584 / eISBN: 9781492637264]
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century
In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife, or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.
A riveting tale of passion, love, and heartbreak, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages.
The Paris Wife was only the beginning of the story…
Paula McLain’s New York Times bestselling novel piqued readers’ interest about Ernest Hemingway’s romantic life. But Hadley was only one of four women married, in turn, to the legendary writer. Just as T.C. Boyle’s bestseller The Women completed the picture begun by Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, Naomi Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway tells the story of how it was to love, and be loved by, the most famous and dashing writer of his generation. Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary: each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.
Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages. Spanning 1920s bohemian Paris through 1960s Cold War America, populated with members of the fabled “Lost Generation,” Mrs. Heminway is a riveting tale of passion, love, and heartbreak.