Wife # 5? Adriana Ivancich

This is an update from a post i wrote a few years ago. I thought since i dealt with the wives recently, I’d give  Adriana her place. Thank you all readers. I appreciate it so much that you come here to learn more about Hem and to comment. I learn too from all of you. Best, Christine

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is adriana-on-boat.jpg

Adriana look alike

Hem was infatuated with Adriana. She seems to have been fond of him but did not return love. In fact, at times, it seems that his interest embarrassed her and she turned from it. It was an open secret that he modeled Renata in Across the River and into the Woods after Adriana. 

Hem and Adriana met when she was an ingénue of nineteen and he an icon of forty-nine. She was lovely in an old world Venetian way, not a modern girl look. From an aristocratic family in Italy that was no longer wealthy, Adriana met Hem through her brother who hooked up with Hem at a bar and they struck up a friendshipThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hem-and-her.jpg

Harry’s Bar

As is to be expected, Mary came to resent Renata.  She and her mother visited them in Cuba and stayed quite a number of months. Mary first tried to be motherly and charming until she saw that Hem’s interest was more than casual. He became abusive to her, as if wanting her to leave.  Mary however was made of stronger stuff. She liked being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway but not just for the reflected glory.  She loved him.  She loved him and their life. She made clear that she wasn’t leaving and he needed to deal with this girlThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Adriana.jpg

Hem is reported to have told more than one person that he was too old to divorce again and it would cost him too much. Adriana had no interest in marrying Hem but she seemed to like the attention and adoration.  In 1980, some nineteen years after Hem’s suicide, Adriana wrote a book called The White Tower ostensibly to tell her story of the relationship. She said,


“I let the scandal freeze into oblivion and my sons grow up but I owe this book to Papa. This was a responsibility I had to face. I am the missing link in his life.” With all due respect to Adriana, I don’t think she was the missing link in his life.  It’s a bit grandiose to think so.

The book did hit the best seller list in Italy with the omnipresent photo of Adriana leaning into Hem’s chest shyly.  At the age of fifty, she claimed,

“What happened when we met is a little more than a romance. I broke down his defenses; he even stopped drinking when I asked him to. I’m proud to remember I led him to write The Old Man and the Sea.”

Across the River has long been considered Hemingway’s worst novel. “Yes, naturally he wrote it for me, thinking of me, but I didn’t like the book and I told him so,” Adriana says. “I always criticized him when I felt something was wrong, and he changed, and something in me changed too. I shall never stop being grateful to Papa for that.”

Thinking about implications

Adriana committed suicide in 1983. Are you seeing a theme here?


11 thoughts on “Wife # 5? Adriana Ivancich”

  1. This was so interesting, you are quite the writer yourself. Do you think he thought of suicide all his life or just at the end. Didn’t
    his father also do it, or a brother as well as one of the grand daughters. Thanks for a
    great series of articles. Too bad I missed
    the cookbooks. Thanks, Annie Hoffman

    1. hi Annie: Thank you for the compliment! I don’t think he thought of suicide all his life. He scorned it when younger and wrote in For Whom the Bell Tolls that he felt it was a cowardly way out. When his health went and all he loved was disappearing, I think he saw it as a fair way to end it. When the electric shock treatments took his memory, I think he was done.

      So sorry it took me so long to reply! I am so used to no one commenting that I had not visited this area in the past two months! The cook book is wonderful with stories with each one. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reading the blog and your interaction. best and fondest wishes, Christine

  2. Hello Christine
    thank you for your blog and a happy new year to you. I know very little about wife #5 !!!!! So this was very interesting to read. I will order Mary Welsh’s book *How it was
    I will be interested if she writes about Adriana I had not known about her suiscide!!!!
    I am curious about the cookbooks mentioned in the comment section .
    All the best

    1. Happy New Year, Pamela! While Hem never married Adriana, of course, he likely would have if she showed interest and if he didn’t feel the financial cost would be too high. Oh! The cook book is wonderful with Hemingway stories and anecdotes and favorite recipes. The trout! Superb. I bought up ten of them for prize giveaways and everyone loved them. Have a great new year and thank you so much for feedback and reading him and about him. Warmest wishes, Christine

  3. I am writing a comment about Hadley here, because I could not leave it on your post about Hadley.

    Why do you think Hadley was his favourite? Is it being young and idealistic that makes us view our earlier friendships/relationships in a much better light than the later ones?

    I was also wondering, having read A Moveable Feast, whether Hadley had anything with Hemingway’s eventual suicide? I know it is a bit naive and reductionistic to think that way, given that he killed himself one day after his return from the hospital and the progressive mental and physical deterioration he experienced. But I could not help but feel from his writing that his earlier brighter memories of Paris and Hadley haunted him. It could also be that he just pulled one final “toxic masculinity” move letting the woman clean up after him like he did with the other ladies.

    1. Good morning, Mariam! nice to meet you. I think Hadley was his favorite because she loved him when he was just a struggling writer from outside Chicago, not the famous Ernest Hemingway; she made him her top priority which for better or worse worked well for his personality; she was stable mentally–as were all of his wives. While he dallied with Jane Mason, she was unstable and i don’t think he considered marrying her for a moment. His wives all tended to be intelligent, talented, and feet on the ground. Hadley was with him in his beginning period and he romanticized that for sure in A Moveable Feast. I think he saw her as good and pure and forever calm and loving. He made Pauline in his mind into the siren who pulled him from Hadley and Martha was too independent to co-exist with him. Mary–well Mary was loyal but glow of first love with Hadley was in a different and better category in his mind. On his suicide: he had called Hadley several months before to ask for details of the Paris years. She said she had a bad feeling as he seemed removed. When he did not go to Gary Cooper’s funeral, she said she knew he must be terribly ill–emotionally–as Cooper was the one friend he never lost or fought with other than in small doses. I think he killed himself because the electric shock took his memory, alcoholism and the plane crashes took his health, and all took his ability to write. That was his reason to live. Anyway, just my opinion. Others may see it differently. THANK YOU so much for writing, Mariam. Best to you for the new year, Christine

  4. Very nice blog! I stumbled over it poking around for background on the wives after watching the Hemingway special on PBS this week. It’s hard to find a more fascinating and interesting subject than Papa.

    1. Good morning, Lynn! Thank you for writing. Yes, since i first read ABOUT Hemingway in A.E. Hotchner’s book PAPA HEMINGWAY over 40 years ago, i have been hooked. I first found him so fascinating–the zest for life existing next to real depression. I then read Carlos Baker’s bio and then said I better read the real thing, his short stories and novels and no-fiction. He is complex. at his best, he sounds like a ton of fun. At his worst, mean and not very nice. But he was quite damaged as the PBS special showed. Thank you again for reading this blog and commenting. I really appreciate it, Lynn. Please keep visiting! Best, Christine

  5. Dumb question but has Adriana’s book ever been translated into English? I’ve looked everywhere and the original Italian edition is both scarce and expensive to procure. It’s odd that nobody has done so in the academic ranks of Hemingway enthusiasts just for the sake of mere scholarship.

    1. Dear Bawb: Not a dumb question at all! I did a quick search and couldn’t find it translated either. Disappointing. Well all i’ve read suggests it was self-aggrandizing, still i’m sure we all would like to read it. Hemingway scholars out there: Does anyone have insight into this issue or know of a translation in English? I’ll ask my Hemingway group as well. Thanks so much for writing! Excellent question actually. Thank you so much for reading this blog.Best, Christine

    2. Dear Bawb: one of the Hemingway group replied:

      “The white tower by Adriana Ivancich was only published in an Italian edition by Mondadori in 1980. It is a rare book even in Italy.”

      So there you have it! Thanks for the question. Best and happy New Year. Christine

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