Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

I was originally attracted to Erika Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl because of the title; one of my favorite authors is F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I read a couple of Ernest Hemingway’s novels as well because he was good friends with Fitzgerald. I know significantly less of Hemingway than I do of Fitzgerald, but I thought that perhaps this historical fiction novel might be a fun place to start.

I was grateful to Robuck for including a note to the reader at the beginning of the book, explaining that her main character, Mariella Bennet, is entirely fictional. If she had not, I may have assumed that Mariella was indeed a real person who had had an interesting friendship with Ernest Hemingway. Mariella’s situation in life–a poor working class girl with mixed heritage–and Hemingway’s attraction to the girl allows the reader to get a glimpse of Hemingway’s tumultuous marriage to Pauline (his second wife) and to experience from her point of view the economic status of Key West in the 1930s.

Although the mention of Hemingway in the title will certainly be the draw for most interested readers, this is very much Mariella’s story, with Hemingway being a minor character. Mariella is a fiery heroine, and I admired her for the way she took charge in becoming the head of her family and also for how she does not conform to society’s expectations for females. She hangs out in bars and bordellos, and doesn’t care in the least what anyone thinks of her for doing so.

Hemingway’s Girl is not quite what I had expected; based on title, I thought this would be about one of Hemingway’s romantic relationships, but the relationships presented in this book are so much more complicated than romantic entanglements. Mariella is caught between her admiration and possibly love for Hemingway, and for the strong feelings that she has for Gavin Murray, a WWI vet who is in the Keys to help build the Overseas Highway.

I wouldn’t recommend relying on Hemingway’s Girl for a fictionalized account of facts from Hemingway’s life; Robuck has merely planted a well-known literary figure in the midst of a story that could have stood on its own without his presence.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.