Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow

  • by Ruth A. Hawkins
  • Narrated by Talmadge Ragan
  • 13 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It was the glittering intellectual world of 1920s Paris expatriates in which Pauline Pfeiffer, a writer for Vogue, met Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley among a circle of friends that included Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Dorothy Parker. Pauline grew close to Hadley but eventually forged a stronger bond with Hemingway himself; with her stylish looks and dedication to Hemingway's writing, Pauline became the source of "unbelievable happiness" for Hemingway and, by 1927, his second wife. Pauline was her husband's best editor and critic, and her wealthy family provided moral and financial support, including the conversion of an old barn to a dedicated writing studio at the family home in Piggott, Arkansas. The marriage lasted 13 years, some of Hemingway's most productive, and the couple had two children. But the "unbelievable happiness" met with "final sorrow", as Hemingway wrote, and Pauline would be the second of Hemingway's four wives. Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow paints a full picture of Pauline and the role she played in Ernest Hemingway's becoming one of our greatest literary figures.
The book is published by The University of Arkansas Press.


What the Critics Say

"A major scholarly accomplishment - authoritative, thoroughly researched, pioneering, and ably written...a must for Hemingway scholars, teachers, and aficionados." (Anne Marie Candido in Arkansas Historical Quarterly)
"A significant contribution to setting the record straight" (Publishers Weekly)
"A riveting portrait of a marriage, and a fascinating biography of Pauline Pfeiffer...introduces us to a new heroine in the Hemingway saga." (Mary Dearborn, author of Mailer: A Biography)


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A detailed and obviously carefully researched account of the lives of Ernest Hemingway, his second wife, Pauline Pheiffer, and their families. The flamboyant author best known for gritty novels and his love of hunting, fishing and bullfights is revealed as a charasmatic character who could woo and engage others with ease, then as carelessly throw them away when no longer needed. He married into an exceedingly wealthy and generous family when he left his first wife and child for Pauline and continued to benefit from the family's generosity, both in affection and financially, throughout the time they were together. For her part, Pauline appeared to both love him totally and to have devoted her life to making his more comfortable, ignoring her own potential talents.

The author has utilised books, journal and remembrances to bring a very rich picture of all who were involved with the couple, both through the marriage and in the years before and after until Pauline's death. The book is almost as full as one of Hemingway's own novels, with a kalaedescopic swirl of colourful characters and places. It is a romance, also, interwoven between the pages.

Very fulsome in detail, it can be a little repititious at times and would have benefitted from a stronger structure, rather than an all encompassing listing of incidents in chronological order, although, to be fair, this approach does occur when introducing new friends and family members. It would also have been useful to supply a full bibliography at the end - there were various questions which this reader would have liked to follow up and such a resource would have been immeasurably helpful.

The book is narrated by Talunadge Regan, whose voice is well modulated, pace perfect and clear. A pleasant on the ear voice, it does have the slight stridency of a youngish girl, carrying an innocence which is itself fitting with the apparent nature of Pauline herself.

Altogether, a very readable account of a man of huge personality as well as talent and the woman who, above all others, seems to have made it possible. It also provides a fascinating glimpse into the society of the time. My thanks to the rights holder of Unbelievable Happiness for freely gifting me a complimentary copy, via Audiobook Boom. Reading more like a novel than an history, it should appeal to anyone interested in Hemingway himself, the time in which he lived and the background to his work.

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- Norma Miles

Book Details

  • Release Date: 18-05-2017
  • Publisher: University Press Audiobooks