Martha Gellhorn, one of the twentieth century’s celebrated war correspondents, a novelist and short story writer, a political activist, and Ernest Hemingway’s third wife (the only one who left him), has been an important figure in biographies and histories, some of which she attacked, some of which she ignored.

Paula McLain’s new book of historical fiction, Love and Ruin, covers much the same ground as Amanda Vaill’s well-received Hotel Florida, which focused on several couples during the Spanish Civil War. McLain begins in 1937, when Gellhorn met Hemingway in Key West, and carries her narrative into the dissolution of the Gellhorn–Hemingway marriage during World War II.

Gellhorn despised biographies of writers and never wrote an...


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