'Mrs Hemingway' explores pain and passion of writer's four wives

Tue Apr 1, 2014 11:51am EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) - For a writer who explored the world of men without women, Ernest Hemingway certainly liked to have women around him.

The Nobel Prize-winning author had four wives in all with barely a day between each changeover, as well as friendships with Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich.

Now a fictionalized account of the marriages, inspired by his letters, examines what it might have been like to be the wives.

"We think of him as a womanizer, we don't think of him as a husband. That's a role that's subservient to the big-game hunter, the deep-sea fisherman, the war correspondent," said Naomi Wood, whose novel "Mrs Hemingway" has just been published.

"I wanted to investigate what was going on there, why he needed all these women in his life. His life is clogged with women though he's such a man's man," the 30-year-old British writer told Reuters in an interview.

The four shared good times and bad with him in Paris, Key West, Cuba and Spain, suffered his philandering, moods and drinking, and loyally supported him until someone new caught his fancy.

The novel is divided into four parts dealing with each in turn. There's the kind and homely Hadley Richardson who shared his impoverished early days in Paris, then Pauline "Fife" Pfeiffer, the rich, vivacious society girl who ousted Hadley just as his fame was taking off.

Martha Gellhorn, the feisty, driven war correspondent, followed, to be replaced by Mary Welsh, who lived with him in Cuba for his last 16 years and who was to find his dead body in their home in Ketchum, Idaho, after he killed himself with a shotgun in 1961.   Continued...

A life-size bronze statue of U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway at his regular spot at The Floridita bar stands beside a picture of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the writer taken when they met at a fishing competition in Havana on May 15, 1960, in Havana, July 1, 2010. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan