The Garden of Eden
by Ernest Hemingway
Newlyweds Catherine and David are enjoying an extended honeymoon while he tries to write his next book. As Catherine putters around the coastal town she begins to change both her appearance and her attitude towards her husband. Then everything in their relationship changes when she makes friends with a woman named Marita.
Such a strange book, published posthumously, and one that I never would have guessed was written by Hemingway. It contains his clean prose, but his characters are wildly different from anything else I’ve read of his. After A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and other big Hemingway novels I thought I know what to expect from his writing. If it’s fiction there is usually a badly drawn female willing to do whatever the hero wants. This book is the polar opposite of that assumption. It makes me wonder if he only wanted to publish the incredibly masculine novels he wrote during his lifetime.
While Catherine and David are still attempting to find their footing as a couple, Marita’s presence throws them off kilter. They begin to reevaluate their roles in the relationship. Catherine carefully pushes and prods until David accepts Marita as a friend and then as a lover. The ménage à trois relationship sneaks slowly into their lives until it’s hard to remember what they were like as a twosome.
After reading The Paris Wife last year it made me wonder how much of this book was inspired by bits and pieces of Hemingway’s own life. His first marriage ended when a close female friend (Pauline Pfeiffer) slowly worked her way into the lives of both Hemingway and his wife Hadley. There are even some parallels with destroyed manuscripts, though in the novel it’s a malicious act and in real life the manuscripts were stolen while in Hadley’s possession.
BOTTOM LINE: A strange look inside one couple’s marriage. A crucial book to read if you think you really know Hemingway’s work, but not a must for those who just want a taste. I’d highly recommend his nonfiction book, A Moveable Feast, about his time in Paris to provide another aspect of his writing style.
Roof Beam Reader’s great review of the book prompted me to check this one out.
I read this as part of Allie's Modern March event.