|Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France 2015
|Mount Kosciuszko, New South Wales, Australia. 2008
Until partway up, the weather turns, and you realize the damp cold is much worse than the sunshiney cold, and it dawns on you that you’d better stick close together or lose sight of each other in the mist. Ha.
|Mount Kosciuszko plays misty for us. Ha.
|Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado in Patagonia, 2017.
|Gellhorn in Idaho, 1940
I’m not finished reading Travels with Myself and Another yet. It definitely is a book which needs to be rationed, one chapter at a time, with a rest of several days in between. Otherwise one might be put off travel altogether.
I’m loving Gellhorn’s frankness, and her ability to describe so evocatively the bone-shaking plane rides, disgusting smells, filthy hotel rooms, bed bugs, strange skin afflictions she acquires, and utterly unhelpful, even obdurate, guides. In some places I laughed out loud. Especially at her description of her interactions with Ernest Hemingway who, in one section, unwillingly accompanies her to China, is referred to throughout as UC for “Unwilling Companion,” and when things go wrong reminds her “who wanted to see China?” I also love how she describes Hemingway as uncomplaining and even heroic, and herself as writing “yowling” letters home to her mother. For someone whose marriage to Hemingway would fall apart years before she wrote this book, she’s very generous in her descriptions of him, a testament, I imagine, to her honesty.
|Gellhorn with Hemingway in China, 1941
I’d long intended to read Martha Gellhorn’s memoir, but it was only the news earlier this year of Paula McLain’s latest historical novel, Love and Ruin, based on Gellhorn’s marriage to Hemingway, that spurred me on to finally buy the book. Both books in fact. I’d read, and loved, McLain’s two earlier novels, The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun. You can read my review of both books in this post. And I decided that before I read McLain’s fiction about Gellhorn, I had to read Gellhorn’s own work.
|Gellhorn’s memoir and McLain’s novel about Gellhorn and Hemingway
I’m almost finished Gellhorn’s memoir; she’s in Soviet Russia at the moment. So I’ll be starting McLain’s novel any day now. The funny thing is that I’d intended to read both books weeks ago. I’d been saving them for our trip to the Saguenay in early August. Or maybe when we were down east, or on our early September camping trip. I wanted to savour them when we were on vacation. But as each trip, one by one, was cancelled on account of shingles, I decided that I’d better just read the damned books. And so I shall.
|Wearing embarrassing headgear at Hubby’s behest. Carrière Wellington, Arras, France, 2015.
I know that my friends sometimes tire of hearing me relate travel stories ad nauseam. As Gellhorn says in the preface to her book: “Upon our return, no one willingly listens to our travellers’ tales. ‘How was the trip?’ they say. ‘Marvellous,’ we say, ‘In Tbilisi, I saw…’ Eyes glaze. As soon as politeness permits or before, conversation is switched back to local news such as gossip, the current political outrage, who’s read what, last night’s telly…” Gellhorn believes it’s only our tales of horror that keep our friends interested in our travel stories. Certainly it’s the disaster or near-disaster experiences that make the best stories.
But, I also know that for the traveller themselves it’s the disaster, or near-disaster, experiences, the exhausting, stressful, disappointing, or even painful days, which make the beautiful sunsets and stunning vistas even more sweet. The vicissitudes of travel don’t put us off travel in the least.
In fact, this summer, I’ve learned that the vicissitudes of travel are nothing compared to the pain of being confined to barracks, with no prospect of travel at all.
But things are looking up. There’s Italy in a few weeks. And in the meantime, there’s Gellhorn’s book to finish, and McLain’s novel to read, and travel outfits to plan. Life is good, people.
Now, how about you my friends? Have you read Gellhorn’s memoir? I know that some of you have much better travel horror stories than I do. Any that we haven’t heard? Or any travel books you’d like to recommend for those of us who love them?