Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck

Hemingway's Girl

Author: Erika Robuck
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Pages: 280 (e-book edition)

     This novel is set in Key West in the mid-1930s.  The main character is 20 year old Mariella Bennett, the eldest child of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman.  Mariella's father dies unexpectedly and Mariella finds work as a housemaid in Hemingway's home on Whitehead Street.   Mariella must balance working for the Hemingway household with taking care of her morbidly depressed and dysfunctional mother and a sickly younger sister.  Mariella also finds time for romance with an Army veteran who is working on the overseas highway while fending off advances from her employer.

    The author's writing is strong, her plot and setting in particular are well rendered.  The author pays a lot of attention to detail regarding her setting.  She has done her research regarding Key West during this time.  I read this book while vacationing in Key West and found it fun to walk through the neighborhoods she describes.  There are parts of this book which I think are really excellent.  In particular, her description of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 which claimed hundreds of lives and caused untold damage to the Keys is riveting.  The author also manages to work in some discussion of suicide and the mental state which might presage that drastic choice.  I didn't like the parts that seem to devolve into a Harlequin romance story.  The sections describing Mariella's mixed feelings for Hemingway and growing desire for her younger boyfriend were somewhat syrupy.  The characters in this book aren't particularly well developed, especially the secondary ones.  I also don't feel that I gained much new insight into the life and personality of Ernest Hemingway, even though his character is central to the entire novel.

    Hemingway's Girl is a very entertaining read and the positives far outweigh my perceived negatives.  I would recommend this book, especially if you have a fondness for Key West or are planning a trip there.

A Key West sunset from Mallory Square

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