The Garden of Eden

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

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. 


Sandy Nawrot said...

I've never actually read anything by Hemingway...I'm horrible at anything classic as I think I've told you. I do have one or two of them on my iPod. I need to make him a project some day.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I couldn't get through The Paris Wife. I think I 'm allergic to Hemingway.

Jeanne said...

I've never read this one. Perhaps I should, so I can pursue my avocation as defender of Hemingway on the book blog circuit!

Teresa said...

I read 'A moveable feast' last December and loved it! But now I don't know which book by Hemingway I should read next!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This is on my shelf and one I was hoping to try this year.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I think you would like A Moveable Feast because of the descriptions of Paris!

bkclubcare - Ha! That's hilarious. I think there are some authors that just never work for people.

Jeanne - I think if you want a complete view of his work than it is essential. I honestly couldn't believe it was him at first.

Teresa - Hmm, I think it depends on what you want. A Moveable Feast is a hard act to follow. Maybe try a few of his short stories or The Sun Also Rises.

Diane - I hope you like it! It's definitely unlike he's other work.

Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate said...

I thought about starting The Garden of Eden recently but was a little put off once I realized that it was published after his death. I am never quite convinced that all of the material is genuine in these circumstances. I too loved The Paris Wife and have read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and thought the writing was amazing so perhaps I should give Garden another try. I definitely need to check out A Moveable Feast though!
Rebeca @ The Key to the Gate

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Rebecca - A Moveable Feast was actually published after his death as well, but it's so good! You should definitely read it if you liked The Paris Wife. It's the same timeline.