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The Hemingway Women: Those Who Love Him - The Wives And Others

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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.

556 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 1985

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Bernice Kert

4 books2 followers

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5 stars
116 (34%)
4 stars
164 (49%)
3 stars
43 (12%)
2 stars
10 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews
Profile Image for Shev.
10 reviews
June 17, 2011
You understand Hemingway's stories MUCH better after you've been given access to the women who were in his life.
Profile Image for Laura.
2,113 reviews
August 11, 2011
A very interesting biography of Hemingway told through the scope of his relationships with women. Especially since his female characters were often controversial, and he was married four times (with other 'women' in-between), this is a very thorough and interesting book. While it's pretty scholarly (and well-annotated), it's well-written and isn't too 'heavy' to read.

I did wish for an epilogue, to find out what happened to his sons; I was curious too about how he related to his sisters and daughters-in-law, but the wives were interesting. If you're a fan of Hemingway and looking for fresh insight onto his life and work, this is probably worth checking out.
Profile Image for Liz.
399 reviews4 followers
December 19, 2011
This book is about all the Hemingway wives, and also a couple affairs on the side. It starts out with Hadley, Ernest's first wife, then moves to Pauline, then to Martha, and finally to Mary. Ernest continues a correspondence with Hadley throughout his life, and realizes what a great thing he had with her. The marriage between Pauline and Ernest fail after it produces two sons, and Ernest is very bitter towards her til the very end. Martha seems to be short marriage, and Ernest couldn't live with her independence and ambition to report on the war overseas. Mary is with him to the very end, although she should have left him numerous times. There were also affairs on the side that didn't result in marriage such as with Jane and Adrianna. Ernest was very mean and abrasive to his three wives after Hadley, and it makes you wonder if it stems from his guilt of what he did to her and their relationship. Ernest needed to be waited on hand and foot, but also resented it. He drank too much, and berated his wives too much to the utter astonishment of supporters and friends. He became very paranoid towards the end of his life. Eventually ending his life, which was not reported to years later.

I really enjoyed this book, and will continue to follow up on Ernest's numerous books, along with Mary's memoir.
Profile Image for penny.
46 reviews2 followers
September 7, 2011
This book was highly interesting. It was a look at his women, but by looking at him through this prism it gave a distinctive look at Hemingway himself. I found myself staying up too late at night to read this book. Marty was my favorite wife. She was just awesome. I wonder how much of his bad behavior was due to mental illness and how much to just being an ass.
Profile Image for Zoë Gulliksen.
13 reviews17 followers
June 23, 2014
One of my all time favorite books. Lengthy and still very engrossing. The author has such a wonderful way of giving each woman in Hemingway's life the attention they deserve. As Gellhorn has stated, there are not just footnotes in someone else's life. They are extraordinary women who all had loved a fascinating & talented asshole. I can't recommend this book enough.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
476 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2008
A different point of view on Hemingway. I thought that the Mellow book on Hemingway was better and addressed the women in his life in an equally fair way. Certainly this work gives us more information, but I didn't feel more enlightened.
Profile Image for Claire M..
Author 17 books32 followers
March 4, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Jamie.
38 reviews5 followers
October 23, 2007
The women he married, dated, abused were in some ways more interesting than he was. especially martha gellhorn. she kicked ass.
Profile Image for David.
32 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2021
When my wife saw me perusing this one in the shop before I bought it, I explained that Hemingway's real-life story is a lot more interesting than a lot of his fiction is. (Not that I don't like any of his work, but I have always found it hit-or-miss, with more of the latter than you would expect given his stature.) In that respect and in most others, it did not disappoint. You not only learn a lot about the real women behind some of his characters, you get to know them pretty well. (Certainly a lot better than you get to know most of the women in his stories!) As readable as it is well-researched, this is a really fascinating look at a side of the story that has otherwise been underappreciated for decades. If I have to criticize something, Hemingway himself isn't as well-developed as he could be. The tailspin that was his last few years is especially underdeveloped - twenty years after his suicide when this was published, surely some light had been some light shed on just what had happened - but then again, the book isn't about him. It's about the women, and it delivers. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Patrick Powell.
47 reviews3 followers
April 8, 2021
In many different ways this is an excellent book — informative, well-written and entertaining even. And it is fitting that the four women who in turn married that old, egocentric, narcissistic monster Hemingway (I am not a fan) should finally get their fair share of the limelight.

The first two, Hadley and Pauline made it possible for Hemingway to get his career underway by supporting him until, by now married to Pauline, he began earning his own money. He did ‘work as a foreign correspondent’ in their first few years in Paris before their son was born, but this was as a freelance, almost on an ad hoc basis, a fact which is often glossed over. With Hadley’s money she and her young husband — she was eight years older — were able to live a far more comfortable life.

Pauline’s family were very wealthy (her father was one of the biggest landowners in the state of Arkansas) and for all his talk of being ‘a pure artist’ and despising the rich, Hemingway very soon accustomed himself to the good life, although he was always a little guilty about it.

Of his wives, Martha Gellhorn, a talented journalist in her own right, was not prepared to play ‘the little wifey’ as Hemingway expected and later demanded, and it is no surprise that they soon separated after they married (although they were together for several years before their marriage). She was a proud and intelligent woman who was determined to make her own way.

Mary Welsh, his last wife had a rotten time of it. In my view Hemingway pretty much lost his marbles in the last 13 years of his life, not just in the last year. His behaviour was often bizarre in the extreme. His drinking didn’t help.

Bernice Kert has done all four women proud and given them the recognition each deserves. This book is not ‘about Hemingway’, although he figures in it largely, but about the four decent and brave women who put up with him.

The book begins, as one might expect, with several chapters on Hemingway’s mother Grace, a woman he eventually regularly referred to as ‘that bitch’ but she does not deserve to be. She was certainly singular, but she cared for and loved her children a great deal. She, as many millions of other women, deserved to live in more enlightened times, but sadly she didn’t.

Ms Kert’s book is recommended.
53 reviews
July 22, 2014
Bernice Kert said, in her author's note, that if the reader gleaned anything new about Ernest Hemingway, then it would be through the eyes of the women he was closest to in his life. She was absolutely right. This is a book about these women and what they got from and endured in their relationships with Hemingway. And, Hemingway IS further elucidated. It's a beautifully written account. She brings new material to the table because she was able to get first hand material from most of the women themselves, and the access to the letters and diaries they and their close relatives gave must have been like hitting the jackpot for Kert. All of that material is represented here, along with some other materials that had previously been publicized. Together, they have allowed her to write a very interesting and telling book about Hemingway through the eyes of those who knew him best. Having already read a more contemporary biography of Hemingway, written in the last decade, I found this book was much more interesting and informative, even after all this time. Bernice Kert's own story is an interesting one as well. This book, her first published book, took over 10 years of careful research and writing that she embarked on in middle age, after raising her family. I can't think of a better person to write about the lives of very interesting women and the famous man they loved.
Profile Image for Joan Colby.
Author 48 books64 followers
November 26, 2014
A fascinating look at the women in Hemingway’s life—from his histrionic mother through his four wives and various lovers. While Hemingway is designed to be a peripheral character, the book sheds more light on him than many biographies. Kert studied with Carlos Baker, Hemingway’s principal biographer, who encouraged her in this focus and made his source materials available. The women in Hemingway’s life were accomplished, intelligent and vital especially Martha Gellhorn who unlike Hadley or Pauline had no intention of playing second fiddle and ultimately earned his fury by refusing to be duped by his postures. Considering Hemingway’s behavior, which was often bullying or negligent, it is difficult to comprehend the influence he maintained over women though that sort of magnetism is expressed in person, not on the page. Men too were charmed by Hemingway, a complex personality, who sadly over time, became a self-parody. Drink increased his paranoia which ultimately led to his suicide. The stature of his early work is unquestionable, and as Kert makes clear, the women he chose played a significant part.
Profile Image for Megan Winkler.
Author 6 books32 followers
September 15, 2016
Really excellent read! While I'm not a huge Hemingway fan, I'm fascinated by his life. After we got back from Key West (and touring his home that he had with Pauline there) I picked this volume up. One of the best biographies I've ever read! Very readable and enjoyable. It reads more like a novel than a historical record, which is nice. You begin to develop so much empathy for the women in Hemingway's life - he was such a force of nature that it's fascinating to read about those who were closest to him.

Sources for the book include primary interviews with the subjects, letters from Ernest Hemingway's private collection and more. Highly recommended for all Hemingway fans!
Profile Image for Terry.
838 reviews9 followers
April 26, 2015
What a great companion book to “Mrs. Hemingway!” Ms. Kert not only gives us a great biography of the 5 Mrs. Hemingways (we learn about Ernest’s mother Grace,) but some of the other women he had emotional, maybe sexual, relationships. I would have given this a “5” but it ends abruptly. Published in 1983, 2 of the former wives were still alive, so I can see where Ms. Kert wouldn���t have been able to go into their lives much, but this really could have used an epilogue, a sort-of “where are they now.” A very well done biography overall.
Profile Image for Katie.
79 reviews28 followers
July 27, 2012
There's a lot here to ruminate. Is "Ernest Hemingway was a chauvinist pig who blamed everybody but himself for all of the things that went less than according to his plan?" A good enough review? What about, "Ernest Hemingway was a troubled drunk who bullied and intentionally humiliated the women he loved."? I'll come back to this after the clouds have passed.
115 reviews1 follower
September 21, 2008
This was a fun read. The women were interesting but Hemmingway comes off pretty badly. He earned the reputation he has as a self-centered pig. He cheated on every wife and 4 times married (and divorcded) the woman he was cheating with. His last wife, Martha Gellhorn, was my favorite.
25 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2009
Enjoyable and insightful studies of Ernest Hemingway's mother, wives and women friends. After reading the book, I wrote to Ms. Kert wth a question about Hadley and received a short reply expressing her surprise that anyone was still reading it.
246 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2017
Definitely a fascinating, apparently first-time, insight into Hemingway's personal relationship with women who truly appreciated him, shortcomings alongside the talent. Perhaps rather a different personality from that we might have expected. A much more sympathetically 'hopeless man' whose passion was literature and writing, whose weakness was being organised, co-ordinated and being confronted by women who cared for him.
A most interesting insight into the manner of 'shared relationships' of the period, often talked about but not so often written up in candid form.
The ability to 'share' lovers and partners with love and a degree of detachment allowing for continuity throughout life, might carry a useful message for our current society of multiple partners and 'throwaway' relationships.
A truly different and well documented text.
Profile Image for Donna.
681 reviews
May 29, 2019
My opinion of this book seems to differ significantly from other reviewers that gave it four and five stars. With 507 pages read, I felt exhausted with Hemingway's life, as surely as he was himself. I have read many book by and about Hemingway, his wives and his enduring and changing entourage and I think this will be my last one. He was not a nice person to the women in his life according to the extensive research by this author. Other accounts that I have read show him treating many friends in the same nasty ways. I don't need to read any more about him.
Profile Image for Joan.
32 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2019
Personally, I loved this book. I recently decided to learn more about Ernest Hemingway, but quickly became more interested in his wives. This book tells the story of his four wives and other women in his life — and, in turn, tells the story of his life. As a casual read, it may be a bit too detailed, but if this is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend this well-written account of these four strong women.
Profile Image for Marsha Douglas.
53 reviews
June 11, 2021
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Ernest Hemingway. The author did a tremendous amount of research over a period of several years, which is evident in the quality of the writing and content. My conclusion about Hemingway after finishing the book is he was a narcissistic, egotistical male chauvinist pig who had one true love (himself) and was his greatest hero. But, he led one helluva life and let nothing stand in his way to achieve what he wanted.
Profile Image for Janis Mckay.
79 reviews11 followers
July 31, 2020
Some of the information in this book could be updated with material from very recent scholarship. That being said, it was very interesting to read and the author was able to interview almost all of the women in this book. Another corrective for the most widely repeated false information from some Hemingway biographers.
Profile Image for John Dunbar.
59 reviews
June 21, 2017
Without a doubt this is one of the best books about Hemingway I have ever read.
Profile Image for Linda Strawn.
247 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2019
I have read many books about Hemingway and his women and this book did not disappoint. I am not sure why but his life is more interesting to me than his writings.
34 reviews
February 10, 2014
Very engaging biography of a complicated man. I have read some of his books and novels based on his life, but obviously not with the accuracy as relayed in his own written words through letters he wrote and received. The author researched extensively and connected with many of those in his life and what their memory of Hemingway's influence in their lives. Very interesting-I would highly recommend it.
7 reviews
August 5, 2015
I have read many books about Hemingway and his escapades. This book was well written and informative, but I did not learn anything new about the author. He was a rogue and a scoundrel, that we know, and his treatment of women was questionable, to say the least. So why is it that I am so drawn to books about his life?
Profile Image for Ann Otto.
Author 1 book41 followers
May 8, 2016
Excellent, detailed, well-researched book on Hemingway's life as told through the women he had relationships with, married and lusted after. Interesting stories related to WWI, WWII and the Spanish Civil War in which he and other characters participated. Good book for history buffs including many international locations.
Profile Image for Nicole.
77 reviews2 followers
October 21, 2013
Very fascinating portrait of Hemingway wives and his relationships with the ladies. Let's just say that he lived by the motto "Marry in haste, repent at leisure". I also learned that medical care in the first half of the 20th century was sketchy at best.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews

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