Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: September 4, 2012
Source: Won from To Read or Not To Read
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match...and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway. When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation...even as the reliable Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most. Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams? As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths...and the possibility of losing everything she loves."

The year is 1935 in poverty stricken Key West and Mariella and her family are just trying to survive.  Her father has died and Mariella finds herself as the breadwinner in her family since her mother has become tremendously depressed.  Mariella takes a job as a maid for Ernest Hemingway's family and is immediately thrown into a different lifestyle than the one she is accustomed to.  There are cocktail parties, lavish dinners, a house that is ostentatiously decorated, and trips to the Bahamian island of Bimini.  Mariella finds herself attracted to Hemingway's larger than life personality, charisma, and lifestyle, but is also interested in a war veteran and all around good guy, Gavin.  She knows Gavin is the man she should be focusing on, but Hemingway keeps her on her toes.  Things start to get serious for Mariella just as the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 closes in on the Keys.  Erika Robuck's Hemingway's Girl is a fantastic historical fiction, especially if you are a fan of Key West and Ernest Hemingway.

Mariella is the type of heroine that I adore.  She's strong, independent, she has guts, and works hard.  However, she is really conflicted in Hemingway's Girl between the extremely charming Hemingway and the ever-reliable Gavin.  As the tension mounts between Hemingway and Mariella, I kept flipping the pages dying to know what was going to become of Gavin and Mariella. Although I love Hemingway, I was rooting for Gavin the whole time as Hemingway is already married to pretentious Pauline and is a notorious playboy. I wanted a happy ending for Mariella and we all know that it isn't possible with Hemingway.  


Here I am at the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, FL
It's no secret that Hemingway is one of my favorite writers and I loved watching him come to life in Hemingway's Girl.  I thought Robuck did a great job capturing his personality and his extreme ups and downs.  Also, she depicted life in Key West really well. I felt like I was there walking on Olivia Street or sipping a beer at Sloppy Joe's.  I think what added to my enjoyment was the fact that Key West is one of my favorite travel destinations and I could easily picture many of the locations in the novel, including the Hemingway House which I toured two years ago.  Robuck really brought the time period to life and the literary giant that is Hemingway.

I will admit the first half of Hemingway's Girl was a bit slow for me, but the second half I found to be completely absorbing.  The incorporation of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was brilliant as I remember learning about it when I toured the Keys, but I forgot about all the horrific details.  This obviously added to the suspense and action in the novel. This part of the story was definitely a page turner.

Although Hemingway's Girl is completely fictionalized, I thought Robuck did an excellent job portraying Hemingway and life in Key West.  I was sad to see the novel come to an end and for that, I am definitely adding it to my list of favorites for 2012.  I am happy to share that Robuck is writing another novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, entitled Call Me Zelda, who I think will prove to be equally interesting.  I can't wait!


12 comments:

  1. I tried and tried to get into this book but it just wasn't working for me. I'm not an especially big fan of Hemingway (though I think of all modern writers, he could have really benefitted from some serious anti-depressants, so I cut him some slack), but I like the imagined inner lives of real people. i stopped at about the 50-75 page mark, but since even you found the first half very slow, maybe I should give it another chance?

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    1. I think you should- the second half picks up! But if you aren't a big fan of Hemingway, you might not enjoy it as much as me. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Yay! I'm so glad you loved this one Christina, I know how much you were looking forward to it, and it's always nice when a book is as good as you were hoping. Good to know about the slow first half, but luckily the second half makes up for it:) I think I would definitely be rooting for Gavin in this one as well, seems like happiness for her with a married man and notorious playboy is only the stuff of dreams.

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    1. Thanks, Jenny! Yes, definitely Team Gavin even though I adore Hemingway. Thanks for visiting.

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  3. Sounds good. I have been fascinated with Zelda since Midnight in Paris.

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    1. OMG- Yes! I LOVE that movie; in fact, I just bought it a few weeks ago. So good!

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  4. Wow! A five! Sounds like this was the perfect book for you, Christina! :) I'm not sure if it would be for me as I am not a huge fan of slow reads, but since you loved it, I might check it out sometime! :)

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  5. Very cool pic! I'm so glad to hear you loved this one, it makes me want to read it more!

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  6. Haven't heard of this one, but it sounds different and interesting. Great review!

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