Book Review: Hemingway’s Girl

hemingway3While researching Ernest Hemingway’s personal papers, Erika Robuck discovered a photograph of the famous author on the dock in Havana, surrounded by poor fishermen and a young Cuban girl.

The image of the intense young woman stayed with Robuck. Later, she channeled that memory into Mariella Bennet, the independent and fearless protagonist of Hemingway’s Girl. Born of a Cuban mother and white father, this feisty young woman takes on the responsibility of supporting her widowed mother and sisters after the untimely death of her beloved father.

When the novel opens, Mariella is scurrying between odd jobs and occasionally betting on boxing matches. After meeting Hemingway, she secures a position as maid at his house in Key West, where he lives with his second wife, Pauline, and their children.

Mariella is unlike the other women in Hemingway’s life. While she is drawn to the larger-than-life Hemingway, she is determined not to cross any lines or become another of his cast-off girls. Mariella’s life becomes even more complicated after meeting Gavin Murray, a WWI veteran working on the overseas highway. Torn between her desire for Hemingway and her blossoming love for Gavin, Mariella struggles with many of her decisions.

While reading, I had to constantly remind myself that this was not a factual account. Erika Robuck has succeeded in skillfully integrating Mariella into Hemingway’s world during the 1930s in Key West.

Highly recommended, especially if you have read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.