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Ernest Hemingway: A Biography

The first full biography in over fifteen years, the first written by a woman, based on new sources including materials recently released from Cuba.

Advance Notice

“Drawn partly from new-found files and letters, Mary Dearborn has written the first biography of Ernest Hemingway from a woman’s point of view. Fascinated by her opposite, she seeks, with deep empathy, a balance between masculine/feminine qualities in a man, at times, possessed by demons. What emerges is a different Hemingway than we’ve ever encountered before.” -- Oliver Stone, director

"Dearborn (Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim) revisits one of America's most popular writers with insight and finesse, in this rich, detailed biography of Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961). Hemingway came to fame in 1920s Paris amid the fabled community of American expatriates that also included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. His sheer creative energy glowed as he wrote his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, in a little over six weeks. During the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway became a widely read, syndicated correspondent. His well­publicized African safaris and big­game hunting culminated in the celebrated short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway fired the public imagination, Dearborn shows, becoming a personification and even a caricature of virility for his generation. In 1954, he received the Nobel Prize for literature. Despite the achievements and celebrity, Hemingway led a troubled life complicated by alcohol and three failed marriages, increasingly spinning his wheels and losing his gifts. His 1961 suicide shocked the world. Dearborn speculates at length on what went wrong, attributing Hemingway's collapse to manic depression compounded by brain injuries. Her fluid narrative and careful research contribute to an impressive biography. Hemingway changed our language and the way we think, she asserts. Dearborn's account shines from beginning to end, helped by Hemingway's dramatic life and charismatic personality." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Boy, I enjoyed the heck out of this book. Dearborn gets inside Hemingway’s head where the real action is. Yes, Hemingway's appetites for drinking, fishing, hunting, bragging, and writing were enormous. And Dearborn duly documents all that hairy-chested stuff. But as this highly readable, companionable biography makes clear, Hemingway was acting out a rage that burned him up inside. It wasn't exuberance over life that him drove him on, but a desire to eat the world alive. This is a biography about a dangerous, brilliant writer." –Charles Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee and And So It Goes; Kurt Vonnegut

"Here is the literary biography for our time, a human document embracing Ernest Hemingway’s blazing genius and overwhelming despair. With clarity and compassion, Mary Dearborn has written a heartbreaking story sure to be talked about for years to come."
–Marion Meade, author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?

"Readers are in for a roller-coaster ride as they encounter the enormous complexity of the man who was Ernest Hemingway. This sensitive book is one of highs, lows, and emotional contrasts of professional successes and personal failures, his many familial generosities and vindictive publishing vendettas, and of how the love he gave freely to wives, children, and friends could turn on a dime to indifference. Mary Dearborn’s graceful and objective portrayal of an American icon will surely be the definitive one for generations to come." –Deirdre Bair, author of Al Capone

“Hemingway has been a compelling figure for biographers, in part because his outsized personality – the drinking and big-game hunting, the deep sea fishing off the Cuban coast, the fascination with bullfighting and war – combined with a rare gift for evocative prose. Now Mary V. Dearborn, a skilled biographer with access to boatloads of new material, has pushed into virgin territory, going well beyond Papa’s macho poses, digging into the cycles of mania and depression, alcoholism, and suicidality that course through his life like powerful underground streams that kept breaking to the surface. I found this an absorbing and brilliant take on Hemingway.”
--Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal