Hemingway’s Daughter, written by novelist Christine Whitehead, is a poignant and captivating piece of historical fiction. In it, she tells the story of the daughter Ernest Hemingway yearned to have but never did. Finn Hemingway is that daughter, and in this narrative, Whitehead invites readers into Finn’s life as the female heir of an infamous and celebrated, but also criticized international icon. The audience can step into their lives with them, feel their pain, and experience their joy.
Finn laments about her father’s countless affairs and failed marriages, the ones that have robbed her from ever believing love can last. She describes his drunken stupors and the rage that accompanies them and the depression that clouds his thoughts and blackens his days. She illuminates the never-ending stream of fans that steal her father’s attention and adoration, leaving her and her siblings feeling second-best. But, Finn also highlights the love she has for her father (whom she calls Papa) growing up and on into adulthood. She boasts of the lighthearted humor he brings to a conversation and the way he can make a person feel like he or she is the center of the universe, the only one that matters. She spotlights the time he offers his comfort and rescues her from her sadness when she loses the love of her life to a war that has taken so many. She savors the last words they share before he takes his own life. They are ones she’s needed to hear for a lifetime, ones that offer the reassurance and depth of a father’s love.
This is an amazing, beautifully written book. Although it is a work of historical fiction, the events and timelines are indicated as accurate. Due to the author’s dedicated research efforts and talent as a storyteller, it’s nearly impossible to tease out the actual from the fantasy. The intricate role Finn plays in her father’s life will leave fans wishing she was real, that she could have really had a place in this fascinating man’s orbit. Their relationship is multi-faceted and symbiotic. It’s vital for each of them to deal with the tumultuous waves of circumstances they endure. The two hold each other up when no one else seems able, and her father’s words just before his death confirm this: “You made me want to try…That’s what love is after all the rest clears: knowing there’s one rare jewel out there you’d move the pyramids for just to see her smile, to make her proud of you, and you’d throw away everything you thought mattered to know she thinks you’re the true gen.” This dialogue and others creatively woven through the pages of this tale are likely to bring tears to readers’ eyes. Those who’ve longed for their parent’s affection but never felt they achieved it will be deeply touched by this novel, and in addition to being heartfelt, it’s ripe with sentiments promoting self-reflection. Some are laced with simplicity like “The job of living is surviving” (Ernest); while others are paradoxical: “I smiled blindly into the glaring lights, seeing only my father in the sparkle and shine, even though I couldn’t really see him” (Finn). They help define the person Ernest Hemingway was thought to be – a unique yet common man with his own set of struggles and aspirations that were cut years too short. Masterful works like Hemingway’s Daughter enable memories of him to be carried into future generations.
This page was created by an City Book Review staff member.
|Author||Christine M. Whitehead|
|Page Count||425 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|