Timothy J. Christian’s new book examines the complicated life and legacy of Mary Welsh Hemingway

Carmen Rojas – 13 May 2022

When Timothy J. Christian was studying in France in his early 20s, he developed a keen interest in American author Ernest Hemingway.

“I too was writing in French cafés hoping the muse would visit,” he said. “I became intrigued by Ernest and wondered about the connection between his personal life and his literature.”

This interest lasted throughout Christian’s legal career, which included 10 years as dean at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law (1985-95). Now, with a renewed focus on his writing in retirement, he has published a biography of Hemingway’s last wife.

Hemingway’s Widow: The Life and Legacy of Mary Welsh Hemingway, the third non-legal piece Christian has published, was released in the US in March and will be released in Canada in June. It is the culmination of years of research during which Christian read through Welsh Hemingway’s correspondence, journals and diaries, traveled extensively to places she had lived and conducted interviews with people who had known her personally.

Christian — whose career also included serving as a chief federal negotiator resolving treaty claims with Indigenous peoples and as a labor arbitrator and mediator — said he found his legal experience invaluable when he turned to biography writing.

“I had learned how to question witnesses and review documents and correspondence to ascertain the likely truth,” he said.

His background was also helpful for examining several legal issues for the book related to Hemingway’s life, such as the investigation to determine if he should be court-martialed and the signing of his will and letter of instructions.

The “likely truth” Christian reveals in his biography is a much more nuanced portrait of Welsh Hemingway than how she has been portrayed in the past.

“Biographers have written Mary off as a person of inferior breeding compared to his other wives and criticized her for sacrificing her career in journalism to become Hemingway’s wife,” Christian writes on his website. His new book, on the other hand, reveals a person he describes as “spirited, determined, calculating, pragmatic, yet charming.”

Hemingway’s Widow has received wide praise since its release, with reviewers calling it “a stunning achievement” and “a biography that will be treasured by the author’s fans and scholars.”

To learn more about the book, visit Christian’s website.

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