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.


Is Your Writing Muse in a Snit?

When Guelph writer Linda Johnston informed everyone on her Twitter feed that she had written 17,000 words in three weeks, we all congratulated her and wanted to know the secret of her success. I enjoyed following her tweets regarding this sudden burst of creativity.

June 26

My writing muse has returned from her snit and is in full swing. She has fused me to the computer.

July 13

My muse dictates how much I write. I just do her bidding.

I imagined one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne visiting Linda each morning, taking her hand and guiding her to the computer. There, she remains offering words of encouragement until Linda produces her daily quota. Later, I discovered that Linda received inspiration from a more concrete source: Sarah Domet’s book, 90 Days to Your Novel.

Patricia Anderson, another Guelph writer, found a muse that enables her to write prolifically and enjoy a vacation at the same time. At the end of June, she sets off for her trailer in Algonquin Park where she spends the summer working on her novel (without distractions).

While researching several famous writers, I discovered some unusual muses.

Alexander Dumas color coordinated his paper. He used blue paper for novels, yellow paper for poetry and rose-colored pages for nonfiction.

Mark Twain and Truman Capote write lying down.

Ernest Hemingway sharpened dozens of pencils before starting to write.

Willa Cather read the Bible before writing each day.

Before picking up his pen, John Donne liked to lie in an open coffin. (I wonder about this one!)

In my case, I like to stick to my morning ritual of easing into the writing. After breakfast, I linger over coffee as I check my emails, Twitter and other social media. Once I finish drinking  two cups of coffee, I start writing. When I hit a writer’s block, I follow Julia Cameron‘s advice from her inspirational books—The Artist’s Way, Walking In the Wind, The Prosperous Heart—and get myself back on track. I  enjoy the morning pages, twenty-minute walks and artist’s dates.

Any other muses out there? I’d love to hear about the eccentric ones.