Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton
Lake Union Publishing: August 1, 2018
Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity
Description: Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.
Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other.
With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman—ahead of her time—claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love. (publisher)
My take: Meg Waite Clayton’s novel about the relationship of journalist Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway is obviously well-researched. In her author’s note she describes the books, articles, letters etc. used to flesh out events and characters.
The book begins in 1936 when Gellhorn meets Hemingway. Over the course of their relationship they travel a good part of the world, witnessing and reporting on remarkable events. The two carry more emotional baggage than most couples and continue to add to it over the years. I guess my sympathies are with Gellhorn but she was not totally without responsibility in the fate of their marriage. I really don’t care for Hemingway – at least the way he’s always been portrayed. He clearly had his demons and they were usually on the front burner. In the end, they lived amazing lives and made me wonder who our modern-day Gellhorn and Hemingway are.
I recommend Beautiful Exiles to fans of the genre and Meg Waite Clayton. The reason I enjoy historical fiction is I usually learn new things about people or events – that was the case in this book.
About the author:
Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five prior novels, including the Langum-Prize honored The Race for Paris and PEN/Bellwether Prize finalist The Language of Light. Entertainment Weekly named her novel The Wednesday Sisters one of the “25 Essential Best Friend Novels” of all time. Clayton has written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school, she has lived around the country and now resides in Palo Alto.