The life story of a character told through the remembrances of five significant relationships of her life. Beautifully written, Elegies for the Brokenhearted is a tender journey through the intricacies of human interaction.
Dana Yarbro knows how to keep secrets. From the time she was born she was schooled by her Mother and Father that she is not to let people know about her homelife. She is the secret daughter of a married man. Even though her Mother made her Father cross the line into Alabama to marry her--they couldn't marry in Georgia because he was already married--Dana knew that she was illegitimate, no matter what her parents said. Even more troubling is that her Father has a daughter, Chaurisse, the same age as Dana.
The first half of the book is told from Dana's viewpoint up until her teens. Because they both live in the same part of Atlanta, the daughters apply to the same schools. But it is the legitimate daughter who gets all of the perks. For instance, Dana loves science and her teachers suggest she apply to the science magnet school to get the advanced instruction that will help her get into medical school when she grows up. But Chaurisse has also applied. So their Father asks Dana to withdraw her application. This continues to happen throughout Dana's life and it embitters her and her Mother.
The second half of the book is told from the viewpoint of Chaurisse, her Father's legitimate daughter, who is only a few months older than Dana. All of the lies that Dana's parents have told her force her into learning more about this other daughter. Her Mother has told her that Chaurisse is mentally a little slow, she is not attractive, and she will never do anything with her life. Dana needs to find out if that is true. But as Chaurisse tells her story, Dana learns its nothing like what she has been told both good and bad.
This is the story of family secrets and the ruinous effect on the children of having to keep these secrets. The story moves along at a fairly quick pace. The development of the characters, especially the daughters, is very good. You will know them and feel for the women they become.
McClain uses biographies of Ernest Hemingway and his wives to create this fictional account of his marriage to Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives. Hemingway was making more money as a correspondent in the early part of the 1920's. He was living in Paris with Hadley and later on his first son, when he started to make a name for himself as a writer.
In Paris, the Hemingway's meet Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and others. They go to Pamplona to see the run of the bulls and Hemingway participates in an amateur bullfight. They travel to the south of France and Austria and meet and drink with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. All the usual suspects are in the book and the sense of Paris in the twenties in what Hemingway would later publish posthumously as A Moveable Feast.
But this novel tries to look at the story of Hemingway's early career through the eyes of his first wife. Hadley struggles with a sense of worthlessness as she tries to cheerlead her husband's writing. Once the baby is born, she feels more tied down than ever just as Hemingway's star is starting to rise. She makes a close friend of Pauline Pfeiffer who later betrays her by having an affair with Hemingway.
What was it like to be married to a man who, you and others, think is destined for greatness? What was the time like before that happens? The frustrations and yet, the joys of a simpler time come through in this novel about Hadley and Ernest. Hemingway remembered Hadley fondly and even dedicated and gave her the royalties for The Sun Also Rises.
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