Monday, July 24, 2017

Reckless Hearts: A Story of Slim Hawks and Ernest Hemingway by Melanie Benjamin

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 19, 2017

Melanie Benjamin introduces readers to the lavish, heady world of her novel The Swans of Fifth Avenue with this exclusive ebook short story! In this enchanting prequel, New York society and Hollywood royalty collide during the doomed and decadent life of Ernest Hemingway. Spain, 1959. Slim Hawks Hayward likes to think she doesn’t get jealous. But when her dear friend Lauren “Betty” Bacall learns that Papa Hemingway has come to watch the bullfights and insists that Slim make introductions, she can’t help feeling protective. Slim has known Papa for years. He always makes her feel like the most beautiful woman in the room—even when his wife is standing right beside him. Truth be told, Slim could have learned to love him all those years ago, in the streets of Havana or the mountains of the American West. Now, Slim is sure that Papa will fall for Betty. What she doesn’t anticipate is the feeling that Papa himself has changed—and their relationship will never be the same.

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Ernest Hemingway on safari, Kenya, 1954.
Retrospectively speaking, I wish I’d read Melanie Benjamin’s Reckless Hearts when I read The Swans of Fifth Avenue. It doesn’t truly matter, one can appreciate each on its own, but I think the two complement one another quite nicely and definitely recommend both to fellow readers.

I could go on about Slim’s relationship with Hemingway, but what I loved about this piece was how Benjamin used it to portray women over twenty-five. I could say the same of Swans, but I think the concept more evident here as the story is so much shorter. Women of a certain age are often portrayed as stagnant creatures without passion or sensuality, but Benjamin throws all stereotypes to the wind by gifting Slim, Lauren, and even Mary dimension, depth, and desire.

I also loved the thematic symmetry of the story and how Benjamin used “one bullet” to tie everything together. Pardon the admission, but I didn’t expect such a powerful motif in so short a piece and was greatly impressed by both its inclusion and the imagination that crafted it.

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"Well, you’re lucky,” Slim replied. “You’re lucky it was your husband who was that man. I don’t know that it is, for most of us.”
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