The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

A sordid story that goes from blissful newlyweds to insane nightmare. 

It is difficult to describe this intense 1920s book – it isn’t a thriller, nor a classic. It is more of a very tiny soap opera. What starts as a golden, idyllic honeymoon of love making and eating turns into a dysfunctional menage a trois.

This is a posthumous book published after Mr. Hemingway’s death. As such it has been cut down from 125,000+ words to a mere 70,000 by an editor removing an “unneeded sub-plot”. One wonders if he did the book a favour or not.

It starts with Girl and Boy, blissfully immersed in their extended honeymoon and seemingly unaware of real life. Eventually you learn Catherine is a rich woman supporting her new husband David, a writer.

Catherine starts out by telling David of her insatiable appetite and how she is a destroyer. She’s going to destroy him, she says, but he just takes it in stride as your typical feminine exaggeration. He even says she’s too sleepy to be dangerous. Too bad she’s serious.

One reviewer says this is “Catherine’s quest to gain control in her life by becoming a man.” She gets a boy’s haircut and forces him to role play as a girl. The story goes on to involve another girl whom Catherine draws into their unfortunate marriage, before running into a bland, unsatisfying ending.

Some people have said this is about a woman who is powerful and nonconformist, struggling to express herself in a male dominated 1920s. Or about Catherine’s need to fill a void in herself and how David is a passive accessory to her mental instability.

It might have these brilliant layers but as a story it just feels unfinished, somehow managing to be uncomfortably racy while also uninteresting.

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