On the overloaded shelf of Hemingway biographies, this perceptive group portrait claims a unique spot. Focusing on his wives, lovers, and female friends, Bernice Kert highlights aspects of the writer''s personality that are often shrouded by his hypermasculine public image. Women were certainly attracted by Hemingway''s swaggering charm and boundless vitality, but they also discerned an underlying strain of sensitivity and vulnerability he concealed from the world. Although a friend once remarked that Hemingway was the only man he knew who really hated his mother, Kert''s stereotype-shattering depiction of their combative relationship limns Grace Hall Hemingway in more nuanced terms than her son ever did and reminds readers that much of Hemingway''s creativity and competitiveness came from her. The wives emerge as people in their own right, though journalist Martha Gelhorn was the only one to find her career more interesting than being Mrs. Hemingway. Kert''s portraits of the unwitting models for the author''s heroines reveal significant differences between the actual Agnes von Kurowsky and the fictional Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, between Duff Twysden and Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway tended to write about the ideal female; Kert restores the real women who shaped his life and art. --Wendy Smith
Many books have been written about Ernest Hemingway, but no book has focused on the women he knew and loved and sometimes hated-his mother, who was the lifelong recipient of his invective; his wives; and others who captivated him. Hemingway married four times, each time to a fascinating person: Hadley Richardson, who shared the Paris years and one son; Pauline Pfeiffer, the mother of two more sons, who created a haven in Key West; Martha Gellhorn, a writer and acclaimed journalist; and Mary Welsh, a Time correspondent. Drawing on letters and interviews with the living women, Bernice Kert sheds new light on the Hemingway heroines and their real-life prototypes.
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