A mostly engaging examination of a marriage and its effect on American literature.
In addition to the detailed story of Ernest Hemingway’s second marriage, to Pauline Pfeiffer, Arkansas State University administrator Hawkins covers the novelist’s other marriages, the tense relationship Pfeiffer and Hemingway navigated after their divorce, their deaths and more. Pfeiffer met Hemingway in Paris. Though the relationship had a rocky start, the two fell in love, resulting in the end of Hemingway’s first marriage. The next 13 years were filled with travel, children and Hemingway’s rising career, all considerably bolstered by Pfeiffer family money. Hawkins pays special attention to this financial aspect of the story, arguing that money was at the very least an important factor, and probably the main one, in Hemingway’s decision to marry Pfeiffer. Regardless, the book shows Pfeiffer as a woman in love and content with her marriage and life until her husband moved on to be with someone else. Most of the narrative is absorbing, but Hawkins occasionally becomes bogged down in the details. Genealogies of both the Pfeiffer and Hemingway clans slow the pace, as do occasional off-topic anecdotes that may intrigue Hemingway enthusiasts but distract from the subject at hand. Though she paints Hemingway in a somewhat unflattering light, Hawkins doesn’t ignore his better qualities and includes episodes showing his soft, generous side when dealing with family and those close friends with whom he maintained lasting relationships.
Will appeal to Hemingway enthusiasts and readers of literary biography.