HOW IT WAS by Mary Welsh Hemingway
Kirkus Star


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The matter-of-factness of the title will immediately set the tone of ""Miss Mary's"" retrospective of the seventeen years she spent as Ernest Hemingway's fourth wife. It rarely indulges in sentiment/ality and lacks the attuned, affecting quality of, say, Hotchner's skewed memoir or most recently that of his son Gregory (p. 365). Long before she met Hemingway, Mary Welsh was the best ""girl reporter"" in the US with many connections of her own. During WW II Ernest announced, ""I want to marry you sometime."" She was and still is very much of a self-sufficient woman, undeluded by the prodigal, strenuous, petulant man she married. He strayed, sometimes behaved like a ""pimply adolescent,"" neglected her, and became abusive. He also called her Pickle, Kitten, or his ""kitten-brother,"" and said Mary ""has always wanted to be a boy and thinks as a boy without losing any femininity."" Thus she could share in all of Ernest's activities from his ""young men's games"" in bed to the marlin-fishing aboard the Pilaf to the safari in Africa where Ernest announced ""I've never given my body any quarter."" It was the beginning of his physical and emotional disintegration from kidney to liver to soul. The book is based on Mary's diaries; she has not prettied them up; accordingly it comes most alive when Ernest is there to appropriate it. (She writes an ordinary prose--words like ""pulpous"" or lines like ""we rebreathed our breaths."") She rarely gains our sympathy even when, during the last Ketchum, Idaho, phase, she became his ""ghost wife,"" inaudible or invisible or at best utilitarian. One cannot question that she loved him; one can question whether she has added any greater proximity to the man who is as he was-a great American primitive child.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Knopf