‘Hemingway in Love: His Own Story’ by A. E. Hotchner: Book Review
Hemingway in Love is a memoir of the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway penned by his close friend and editor A. E. Hotchner, also known as Aaron Edward Hotchner. This memoir was written in 2015 to explain why Ernest Hemingway became deranged towards the end of his life. Hotchner has previously written other memoirs and biographies on his friend Hemingway whom he used to refer to as Papa. Hotchner passed away this year, 2020. Hemingway in Love is a book about Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, who was his only true love. Hemingway cheated on her for Pauline, a wealthy aristocrat, and fashion diva. He is said to have told the author Hotchner that he loved two women when he was cheating on Hadley for Pauline. Handley ultimately left Hemingway to marry a journalist soon after their divorce. She moved on in life but kept her memory of Hemingway in her mind. They had a child together whom they named Bumby. Pauline was the woman who took Hemingway away from his one true love, his first wife, Hadley. Hemingway had asked Hotchner to one day tell the secret about this guilt that followed Hemingway even to his grave, the secret that he never got over the loss of Hadley. Also, that Hemingway considered Hadley to be the real one true love of his life. This book titled Hemingway in Love shows Hemingway at his most vulnerable. He comes out candid, frank, and a man who loved to enjoy the best of life. It was and still is sad to have lost such an American literary genius so early in life: Ernest Millar Hemingway killed himself in 1961.
I bought this book in 2015 from the Trilogy Bookstore and Library. I only got time to read the book this year, 2020, when I accidentally stumbled onto it while searching for American content books for blogging. If you want to know more about the Trilogy Bookstore and Library in Mumbai, you can check out my memoir, The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra, on my blog’s product page. Hemingway in Love chronicles how Hemingway deteriorated in mental health during the last few months of his life. It also brings to the forefront the way Hemingway cheated on Hadley and how he has not made peace with that part of his life. Hemingway and Hadley were the perfect couple and lovers. They shared the same tastes, hobbies, and activities. All of us know that Hemingway was the all alpha-male man who loved fishing, hunting, trekking, and going on many adventures with the people he loved. His wife Hadley was just like him in every way, and he had nothing to complain about. Hemingway only came to know Hadley’s importance or relevance when he lost her.
Hotchner has mentioned several prominent literary figures who met with Hemingway through this period of his life, from 1921-1940. During this period, whoever met Hemingway somehow landed up as characters in his books, especially his first book, The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. That was one part of Hemingway which no one could avoid. Those who were his friends in the 1920s did not take it kindly that they figured in his debut book The Sun Also Rises. Most of these friends were on equally good terms with Pauline, Hemingway’s second wife, the one he married after divorcing Hadley. I loved this portion of the book when his friends take offense at landing up as characters in Hemingway’s book and refusing to speak to him again after that. That made me laugh and feel a bit sad for Hemingway because even I, as a writer, include real characters in my stories and novels. That way, it is easier to remember their traits, quirks, and their overall persona. Otherwise, it is tough to remember the nitty-gritty of my fictional characters and their worlds.
I saw how Hemingway did not feel any shame when he was cheating on Hadley. He thought he could go on as he was and that even if the truth came out concerning his relationship with Pauline, Hadley would take it nicely. That did not happen, and ultimately, as F. Scott Fitzgerald warned, he lost both women. Hadley felt she was cheated and walked out of Hemingway’s life for good, while Pauline tried to hold onto him but ultimately failed. Pauline and Hemingway were two very different people who could not get along. There is a very moving scene where the famous writer of the eternal classic The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, takes the younger Hemingway aside to counsel him about his marriage. He plainly warns Hemingway not to make the mistake of loving two women simultaneously, which Hemingway did not heed. Hemingway was on first name terms with Fitzgerald and used to call him Scott. Hemingway also featured Fitzgerald in his first book, which I think was taking things too far.
Pauline was everything that Hadley was not. Hemingway and Hotchner paint her as a person who always had her way. In taking Hemingway away from Hadley, Pauline was trying to catch him as a prize. Once she had him, she did not want to let go. She even went to the extent of following Hadley, Bumby, and Hemingway wherever they went. It was on one such occasion that Hadley smelt a rat and ultimately broke off with her husband. Hemingway never got over the failure of his first marriage. He especially never found a woman good enough to fit Hadley’s shoes. Not even the sensual Pauline who sexually satisfied him could ever surpass the comfort he felt physically and emotionally with Hadley. Hadley was his first and only true love. Even though his last wife, Mary, tried very hard to keep Hemingway happy, his thoughts were mainly focused on Hadley. Even when he got a bit deranged towards the end of his life, among all his other phobias, he blurted out to Hotchner how in the world was he to know when he met a woman that she would be the only true love of his life. He frantically states this as a man sinking with his ship that was his mind. And even then, he was still thinking about Hadley.
I gave Hemingway in Love four stars on Goodreads despite the revelations in this book that sparked its birth. The only reason I gave the book four stars was because of the way the late Hotchner had crafted and displayed the tale of Hemingway and Hadley. Otherwise, the story had too many breaks and starts, with overlapping stories or ‘story in a story’ that can confuse a reader when they first encounter the book. Despite being a patient reader, I found it difficult to place myself historically in certain situations because of the little problems in retelling Hemingway’s sad narrative. Otherwise, the book is useful, informative, revelatory, and makes you realize that Hemingway was a true American alpha-male until he became depressed, suicidal, and a man full of phobias. The sad part is, he was telling the truth about his fears because the FBI was following him, and his hospital phone and home phone were tapped. This was because of Hemingway’s involvement in the Cuban War in his younger days. The authorities wanted to know whether he had anything significant to reveal. They only managed to get the poor author deranged, who ultimately shot himself after his second term at the psychiatric home. This was very sad to read, especially for readers like me who have always loved Hemingway’s works since I was a child in school. I still recommend Hemingway classics for my students to improve their literature and language skills. If you are an educator and wish to encourage your wards to read the classics, you can check out my how-to book Classics: Why and how we can encourage children to read them on my blog’s products page.
When one reads Hemingway in Love, one realizes that many of Hemingway’s short stories centered on real stories that happened to him as a person. This revelation took me by surprise. I recently read and analyzed a short story by Ernest Hemingway titled ‘A Canary for One’, which was the accurate tale of Hemingway and Hadley living apart in Paris after their separation. You can check that story here. Notice that the lady with the canary in the cage was real, and the conversation that passed between them was authentic. ‘A Canary for One’ therefore was one of Hemingway’s most difficult pieces to write because it was faithful to his life. Hotchner has told Hemingway’s little love story so late in his life because most of the people concerned in this tale are no more. On that note, I implore you to read this very revelatory book about an American author who loved exceedingly and never forgot that love ever again. Do pick up your copy of Hemingway in Love from your nearest bookstore or Amazon. You will be glad you did. If you are a new reader of Hemingway’s work, this is an excellent book to get you started. You will learn about the real man behind all the fishing, hunting, eating, trekking, adventuring, and so many other extroverted activities that Hemingway indulged in. This is a good book for the weekend, so do read it during the relaxing weekend. I hope to read more works by Hotchner soon.
I enjoyed reading and reviewing this American editor’s work. I will review or analyze more American literary content: short stories, novels, non-fiction, and essays in the coming days till January. This is because I want to celebrate America’s literary output during this crucial 2020 American Elections year. If you are looking for more American bookish content, this is the blog you should keep watching. I hope to read more books and short stories by Ernest Hemingway soon.
If you are interested in book reviews, book analysis, short-story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, you can check out my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in purchasing my books, you can check out my blog’s products page or author’s page on Amazon. There is a lot of good stuff to buy! Happy reading to you always!
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