Ed. note: We asked Paula McLain, best-selling author of historical fiction, to share her personal library story with our patrons. She is visiting Newbury Auditorium, Sat., May 5, 4 p.m. to talk about her new novel Love and Ruin, in which she returns to the topic of Ernest Hemingway. This time, the focus is on his relationship with Martha Gellhorn, noted war correspondent and Hemingway’s equal in word and personality.
Libraries have always felt like home to me, particularly when I had no permanent home myself. I spent the majority of my childhood in foster care, in California, bouncing from family to family, placement to placement, with my two sisters. By the time I was in second grade, we’d moved so often, and experienced so much upheaval, dislocation and uncertainty, I decided that I wouldn’t even try to make friends at my next new school. I would only be friendly with librarians. That strategy, as sad as it may sound, was a lifeline for me. I built a beautiful home for myself in the world of books; one I could transport myself to at almost any moment. I lived a thousand more interesting and promising lives than the one before me.
Though I couldn’t have known it then, I was also becoming a writer. The way I surrendered to the world of stories as a reader, wanting to be wholly swept away, is the same way I feel as the creator of historical fiction. I’ve lived in Bohemian Paris in the 1920’s with Hadley Richardson in The Paris Wife. I’ve flown the Atlantic and trained racehorses with Beryl Markham in Colonial Kenya in Circling the Sun. And now, in Love and Ruin, I’ve flung myself at war and Cuba and the terrain of tumultuous love with Martha Gellhorn, one of the most extraordinary women I’ve ever encountered. I can’t wait for you to meet her too in the pages of my new novel. You can also find her work at the library, which was her home, too.
See you soon!