Book Reviews · Valentine

Review: Autumn in Venice: Hemingway & His Last Muse. Literary Cross-Generational Romance


Ernest Hemingway, the image of American machismo from the 1920s until his death in the early 1960s was not much for monogamy.  Even with his fourth wife, in the post-World War II era, he still had a roving eye and well-greased zipper.

In 1948, Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, visited Italy. In Venice they were visiting with the Ivancich family and Ernest’s roving eye landed on the family’s 18 year old daughter, Adriana. Yes, she was “legal,” as we’d say today. And, about to turn 50, Hemingway was ripe for a bright red sports car, a tummy tuck and a much younger Mrs.

Ernest and Adriana

Autumn in Venice tells the story of this odd relationship. Was it physical? Probably to some extent. “Papa” and the young woman he called “Daughter” had a hold on each other to be sure, but while it was fun and slightly intoxicating to have the attention of a great man at only 18, the relationship was more one-sided. For Hemingway, Adriana became an obsession. She was a “muse” in the classical sense of that–she invigorated and mentally (and, true to any mid-life crisis, physically) stimulated him. He got his groove back we’d say today and began writing again.

Embed from Getty Images

Ernest and wife Mary

But, wait! Wasn’t he married? YES. While Mary Hemingway, (nine years younger than her husband), like all of Hemingway’s wives, was devoted to him in ways most women wouldn’t be today,  she did her best to ignore it all for as long as possible. Until she couldn’t any longer. [Sidebar: I was amazed to read Hemingway writing to his wife what brand/color # of hair dye he wanted her to use next and that, in spite of his young friend, he was anticipating the effect this color would have when debuted by her wearing only her new mink coat!]



With Hemingway writing again he naturally chose to write about, wait for it, a 50-something “Colonel” and his young lover who was a dead ringer for, you guessed it! Adriana.  The book, Across the River and Into the Trees, owed it’s title to Stonewall Jackson, but the rest was pure romantic obsession on loving Papa’s part. This is when it all hit the fan. The press got involved–at least in Venice. Adriana, expected to make a great marriage by her aristocratic family, was now in danger of being labeled damaged goods. Hemingway pulled out all the stops to postpone the book’s publication in Italy and France to protect his “daughter,” Finally, Mary had enough of it all and put her dainty, wifely, foot down–amazingly, she’d even tolerated Adriana and her mother at the Hemingway’s Cuban home! She put up with it because Ernest was working steadily. But even near-saints snap on occasion. An ultimatium got her husband’s attention at last.

All good things must come to an end and eventually, Adriana married, but divorced, then married again and got it “right enough” to put Hemingway mostly away. As for Ernest, the obsession seemed to finally lessen a little. He wrote The Old Man of the Sea, (for which Adriana again designed the cover), won both Pulitzer and the Nobel Prizes, and wrote Islands in the Stream, which was published a few years after his death. Then he and Mary were in a plane crash and the world thought they were dead. Remarkably, he was in a second plane crash the next day!  We all know his tragic ending, but the good news is, that Mary stayed around and got to be the widowed Mrs. Hemingway and control a lot of things after his death. I supposed that’s “good news.” Poor Adriana took the same exit as Ernest though. Sad.

My Thoughts

I thought it sad that all that was really available for depression and axiety was horrific electric shock treatment. I wonder if any of this would have happened if Hemingway had had access to modern anti-depressants. But, would they have robbed him of his creativity? His drinking was so out-of-control at various points in his life that he was clearly “self-medicating.”

Mary seems to have been wise enough to understand things he could control and things he could not. He was blessed to have a wife like that. She knew his talent, knew that his stability depended upon his work going well. She was patient, but her feelings were trampled upon time and time again–as were those of each Mrs. Hemingway in turn. But, great men have always gotten away with that and not only back in the day when a women’s best career choice was to be the wife of a very successful and talented man.

As for Adriana, she was a spoiled girl whose mother couldn’t really control her. And, in 1948, aristocratic young women were still married off to older men–albeit not those with a wife in tow. It is doubtful though that her family would have approved the match had Hemingway dumped Mary.  But she married an older man the first time–and older man who took her to Africa even, so I wonder if she didn’t have regrets at that point. Sad.

My Rating

4 Stars

Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and his Last Muse by Adrea Di Robilant

Book Reviews · Valentine

What caught my eye this week: Fun Stuff Edition

Right now I’m doing a series on Fridays of Handmade Christmas so I’m trying to not post other crafty stuff here. Today, it’s a curated list of all fun stuff, some of which might be just the right Christmas gift for someone in your life!


Coolest Lego Set EVER!


Too expensive? Not into LEGO? Here’s the Hot Wheels version, plus there’s a whole set of Hot Wheels!

Grumpy Cat’s Second Little Golden Book!


I’m a big fan of Grumpy’s

Book Link

Other Fun Stuff


Cool up-cycling of dining room chairs!



Adorable Book Marks



Fabulous wolf to go with November 14th’s fabulous moon!



Party-Sized Pop-Tart

Perfect for the next morning at a girls slumber party!



That poster!!



Retro Hoover desk vac

WARNING: Don’t open the source with children nearby. Some adult ads/products on this source.


Who knew there was a kids book on Julia Child?



Stuck in the house all winter? Try this fun game in the dark!


How much MORE fun would Twister be in the dark? Check it out here!


I don’ t journal in the traditional sense of the word, but Neopolitan ones are my favorite ice cream sandwiches!



Doesn’t everyone love these scratch  art pads?

Now in sticky notes!



Milkshake Mixing Glasses!

They have these for grown-up drinks, too.



Monarch Butterfly Kite


Find anything fun this week?

Leave me a comment!


Oh yes they did!



Cross-Generational Cary: Day 3 of Cary Grant Week: The Grass is Greener


It’s no secret that I’m sort of an Anglophile. I’m not blind to the faults over there and one of them is the class system, however broken “into” it may be, it is not fully broken down. Take teeth for example. William and Catherine have perfect teeth. Even today this is not the norm there. I could go on and on. And, the saying that the upper class has most in common with the lower class is pretty much true.

Take what they call “Deer Stalking.” It involves tweed, booze, rain, booze, old friends and booze. Here we call it “Deer huntin'” and it involves Day Glow Orange for obvious reasons–so they don’t shoot each other after freezing to death out there all day in camo and thick socks while drinking booze with old friends. But, occasionally, there is an aristocrat that has the best of the middle class mixed in with the best of the upper and lower classes. This, is Cary Grant in The Grass is Greener.


But first things first. The opening. It opens with one of Noel Coward’s best songs ever–the Stately Homes of England. And this helps with the irony-factor. Both Noel Coward and the man know professionally as Cary Grant are Englishmen, but in spite of accents and wardrobe, neither is from a stately home. Far from it, in fact. That makes the film that more delicious. Plus, what’s not to love about Noel Coward writing of “Lord Camp?”

Add in Robert Mitchum as the American tourist and Deborah Kerr as Cary’s Countess and you have a sparkling romantic comedy–and one of 3 movies this trio starred in together. Sellers, the butler, is also a huge part of it. Who doesn’t like a servant who is more regal than his boss? Who worries that he has nothing to do? I think he may have been Julian Fellows inspiration for Carson. Together the Ear and Countess and the Butler run the house on the profits from tourists and from the “mushroom money.” Deborah Kerr farming mushrooms is just such a lovely business idea!

Alas, even the best of marriages get a little stale in time.

The Lord and Lady of this manor are obviously still in love. They’ve come thru the war, had two lovely children and are discovering the job that is Stately Home ownership in the post World War II world. Like most, I imagine they’ve been savaged by death duties (inheritance tax) and have a never ending mountain of household maintenance tasks put off almost fatally long by war and rationing. So, when a square-jawed American enters their lives temptation raises its ugly head. But, this is a Deborah Kerr film folks–nothing tawdry, Victor and Hilary find their way back together and, I believe, will celebrate by sending Nanny and the children to the pictures while they climb into that marvelous bath tub and drink that last bottle of the really superb champagne. The dog will wait patiently in the corridor.  The Grass is Greener.

A special footnote to this film: The play on which it is based was written by Hugh and Margaret Vyner Williams –parents of actor Simon Williams that I featured in this post.



Be My Valentine–Favorite RomCom Crush

I love a fun romantic comedy. If I had to chose just one, hands down it would be Charles, aka, Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and A Funeral (but, Tom–aka James Fleet–in the same film is a close runner-up).

Credit: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Poor Charles falls instantly for the luscious Carrie. She rescues him from a bore and revs his pulse at every turn. Then she marries the “stiff in the skirt”–a doomed-from-the -start marriage that is not only cross-generational, but cross-cultural and with a politician. Watching poor Charles cope with this is so sad and so sweet. He’s so duffy and adorable. I especially love the table of girl-friends-past who gang up on him at one of the weddings. His pain is palpable. His over-sharing in the past comes out in cringe-worthy retellings by the various ex-girlfriends with whom he has deliberately been seated.

 I love the whole movie–so much fun. I love the end credits with all the happy endings. [Tom is the guy with the huge house, by the way. I also love the scene where he explains how his family ranks in terms of national wealth. He’s my kind of aristocrat. And, finally,  I adore Scarlett–the girl in the cowboy hat, she’s simply marvelous.]

Book Reviews · Valentine

Be My Valentine: The Chest, aka, Sean Connery

If I was going to go on a totally absurd social crusade it would be to end chest waxing. A man’s chest hair is sacred. Leave it alone. It’s…..I’ll whisper this so the children in the room can’t hear me…..SEXY. Yep. Sexy. Few men display the “plumage”–as it’s been called, quite as well as the Great Scott himself–Sean Connery.

LIFE magazine

The statute of limitations having long ago run out, I can admit freely that I stole this LIFE magazine cover from a local university library’s bound periodicals collection in 1977. It was on my bedroom wall in high school.

Now, Sean did not CAUSE my love of this manly attribute. That was the fictional Rhett Butler’s fault. In the book Rhett is said to have a thick mat of black chest hair. I was in love from then on with the whole idea. Sean Connery was just, well, pretty darned attractive. And the whole torn wet suit thing worked well with the chest hair. So while Rhett’s was my “gateway chest,” Sean  set a very high bar for my life long manly chest test. [Note, I realize guys have no control over this. If I like the guy, I like all of him–chest hair or not–this is all in fun.]

This ladies is what “manly” looks like!




Later in my life–my thirties–I had this poster in my office and then at the end of my hallway at home. Sadly, after my kids arrived Sean was replaced by Puss in Boots from Shrek–you know the one, with the melty kitten eyes? That one.




Sean Connery as Edwrd VII


Some day, in my future home, I will have a true Edwardian morning room with a leather Chesterfield sofa and all the right trimmings. This portrait will have pride of place–Sean Rex Imperator. Edward VII didn’t look to bad in this portrait, but the photo-shopping with Sean really gives it that special something, don’t you think?




First Knight


This, though, is my all-time favorite. No accident that it comes from a cross-generational romance on film: First Knight, in which Julia Ormand’s character stupidly prefers Richard Geer. Silly girl!










My favorite of his films is the Wind and the Lion with Candice Bergman. It also features Brian Keith as the best-ever Teddy Roosevelt.



Today Sean Connery is over 80. Rumors abound of Alzheimer’s and other indignities of old-age. What we see here is fantasy, not reality. Reality is an actor who is growing old. But Valentine’s Day is a romance novel, it is fantasy. Enjoy.





Book Reviews · Valentine

Be My Valentine: The Fantasy Voice and Song

The Song.

This is THE song of romance. The Very Song. Chills. Weak knees. Tears of Joy. Longing. All from a song. This song.

The Voice.

This is THE voice of romance. This voice requires a misting fan for the listening female (and probably some male listeners too). Click here to listen. [He starts at 00:11:00 ]


Go on! Share “the voice” and “the song” in your life. Share the love!





Book Reviews · Valentine

Be My Valentine–Day Two of my Crushes! A Fictionalized History Crush


Richard Grenville! You vex women’s souls, you fictional rogue! 

History is the true love of my life, so it stands to figure that I have a few ‘history crushes.’ And, when one of those has been brought to life by a writer as utterly amazing as Daphne Du Maurier…well, Be. Still. My. Achy-Breaky. Heart. and, please crank up that A.C.!! Hot flashin’ Mama here! Just thinking the words Richard Grenville….no need to sing “Come on baby light my fire–” more like “Call 9-1-1.”

King's GeneralBack in the days of the other Civil War–the English one, The King’s General, aka Richard Grenville stormed the country. In Du Maurier’s tale he has a romance for the centuries with Honor Harris. To say more would be to spoil the book for you. Yes, it is longer than the Book Club mandated 300 pages, but is it ever worth it. It’s your favorite Dancing With the Stars Couple, plus your favorite Romantic Movie, plus a big does of manly man all rolled into one. Cue “Lady In Red” and “Natural Woman” and whatever other romantic music you need, plus the moody suspense that only Du Maurier could write. But be prepared to sit your horse thru the most rollicking Grand National ever!!! Richard takes us all for quite a ride.


ITV, the BBC and/or PBS need to put this one on the screen. It’s the Borgias without the raunchy sex (and, sadly, without Jeremy Irons), it’s Downton Abbey of the 1600s. I loved this book so much I’m still having hot flashes for Richard. I’m still weepy that I  finished it. This is not a soppy love story–this is a fictional world! You are inside the minds of Richard and Honor. You are living IN the English Civil War.

The photo on the right shows Daphne Du Maurier and her husband, the dashing World War II General Frederick “Boy” Browning and their children–one of whom, Tessa, would later marry the son of World War II’s legendary Field Marshall Montgomery (aka “Monty”).

To learn more about the English Civil War, click here

To read more about the real King’s General, click here

To order the book (I do not make any money off your clicks) click here





Be my Valentine? A Week of Crushes!

First let me say that I loathe the word “crush, ” but it does communicate to readers what the series is about. Men, fictional or otherwise, who I find attractive. Now the taste in men of straight, 54-year old Midwestern librarian, may leave others puzzled. It’s simple: My blog, my post series, my taste! Hope you enjoy the view.



Today’s crush is Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. I had this poster on my bedroom wall in high school. What’s not to love? Talk, dark, handsome, charming, and…has a very manly, very hairy chest. He looks great with a cigar and wears ruffled shirts in a way that doesn’t scream 70’s prom date. Never mind that he had false or, at least, capped teeth. Nor that his romantic partners in film claimed he had bad breath. This is THE KING. We ignore that. Never mind that Gable really only played Gable–it worked.

If you enjoyed him as Rhett, you’ll like him in Magambo and Teacher’s Petboth are CrossGenerational Romances as Gone With The Wind is. And, you’ll like him in an early hit, It Happened One Night. I did not like The Misfits–his last film, the one with Marilyn Monroe. I also love seeing him in World War II in his cool Air Corps uniform, complete with rakishly rumpled hat (or is it a cover? Never sure with the Air Corps/Air Force).