cover image Hemingway: The Final Years

Hemingway: The Final Years

Michael S. Reynolds. W. W. Norton & Company, $30 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04748-6

The concluding installment of Reynolds's (Hemingway: The Paris Years) three-volume life of Papa makes a fitting centennial tribute to one of the most influential American writers of the century. Here Reynolds chronicles Hemingway's life from 1940 to his suicide by shotgun in July 1961. Beginning with the writer's tumultuous third marriage to journalist Martha Gellhorn, Reynolds takes readers through the end of the Spanish Civil War, the great success of For Whom the Bell Tolls, WWII and Hemingway's self-exaggerated role in ""liberating"" Paris, the triumph of The Old Man and the Sea, the Nobel Prize and the author's slow but certain physical and mental decline. Readers have front-row seats for his stormy fourth and last marriage to Mary Welsh, a relationship marked by continual brawls and reconciliations, and we follow the couple through Europe and Africa, enduring the back-to-back helicopter crashes that left Hemingway physically battered and emotionally scarred. Touchingly, in his final years, Hemingway sought to return to the people and places of his past, only to confront the futility of doing so. Hemingway suffered from severe depression and increasing paranoia, Reynolds writes, and his decline was hastened by shock treatments at the Mayo Clinic. Ultimately, he was unable to complete several ambitious projects, works eventually published as A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, The Garden of Eden, The Dangerous Summer and, just out from Scribner, True at First Light. Recent scholarship and the release of important archival information make it clear that the demands placed on the celebrity Papa, a self-created and self-perpetuated myth, only hastened the end. As Reynolds concludes, Hemingway's story is one ""the ancient Greeks would have recognized."" (July)