Saturday, August 11, 2018

Beautiful Exile - Historical Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

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.

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:
  I love the time period and the setting and pretty much just everything about the blurb!

My Impression:
  Oh this book!  This was the first book I'd read by Meg Waite Clayton and it definitely won't be the last.  It was just so good and so readable and so different and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Historical fiction can be a bit tricky.  Sometimes if they stick too closely to the truth it becomes dry and slow paced but on the other had it can go the other way where it feels like the time and place is just window dressing and the story really could take place at anytime.  Clayton walks this line brilliantly.  The book never bogged down or became over detailed but at the same time when the chapter heading says Spain in 1937 it IS Spain in 1937.

Coming into this I knew a decent amount Ernest Hemingway and nothing at all about Martha Gellhorn.  I've always been fascinated by Hemingway.  He's not likable and his demons are so well developed they have their own baggage but he's interesting with blinding moments of brilliance and stunning selfishness.  I don't know that I really learned anything new about him here but it really brought alive what I've always thought about him.  Martha was the character I really enjoyed getting to know.  Prior to this I could only have said that her name was vaguely familiar but what an injustice that is to her!  She's brilliant and ambitious and shockingly daring but with enough insecurities to make her relatable.  Would I want to go to lunch with her?  Not really.  She can be abrasive and single minded and her patience for people who can't further her career or her goal can be minimal.  However, she's so unbelievably brilliant and fearless and the situations she charged into are so groundbreaking that in my mind she surpassed Hemingway on the list of people I find fascinating.

These aren't easy people and the events that are going around them aren't easy either yet it never felt overdone and reading it was never difficult.  It made me want to read more from Meg Waite Clayton as well as more about Martha Gelhorn, the Spanish Civil War and pretty much everything that gets mentioned in the book.    This is both incredibly informative and thoroughly entertaining and I so enjoyed getting to know Ernest and Martha even when I didn't always like them.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to reading her next book.  

Would I Recommend this Book?
  Definitely!  Especially if you enjoy historical fiction.  


  1. I have a copy of this one, so am glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  2. I think it's interesting how many books are being written (historical fiction) about Hemingway and his wives. Must be a lot of stuff to talk about. LOL

  3. I read another review where the reader really liked this one as well. I have been burnt a couple of times by historical fiction based on actual people so now very cautious. However I no next to nothing about Hemmingway so would go in with no preconceptions.

  4. This one sounds fascinating - and many thanks for an excellent review, Katherine:)

  5. I have a copy and hope to read it soon. I saw a movie on Amazon Prime about Hemingway and Gellhorn, and I was fascinated. Glad you loved it. I've enjoyed a few books by this author.

  6. Loved your thoughts on this one. I liked it but decided I'm not a fan of the man himself. That's all on me though.