The Broken Places

Reviewed By  Nan van Dissel       July 19, 2023


Author  Russell Franklin

Distributor:      Hachette
ISBN:                 9781399602303
Publisher:         Hachette: Imprint Pheonix
Release Date:   June 2023  


Renowned mid twentieth century American author Ernest Hemmingway is not only remembered for his enduring novels, but also for his larger than life personality, however, little is known about his family.

Russell Franklin’s sensitively written debut novel The Broken Places explores the life of Gregory/Gigi/Gloria, Hemmingway’s third and often considered as his favourite child, but who lived in his father’s shadow; a child who struggled with a secret which his father just could not accept.

Although Gregory was endowed with good looks, good brains, athletic talent, his mother’s wealth and his father’s name, he lived with a secret which he found terrible and shameful; he liked to dress in women’s clothes.

In the middle of last century, this was considered abnormal and definitely not tolerated by his father.  His father’s decision that there was something wrong with his son led to Gregory’s feelings of guilt, shame and his sense of failure, due to the inability to live up to his father’s impossible standards.

Spanning over seventy years, the narrative takes the reader from 1939 when Gregory was eight years old and living with his brother, Patrick between Key West USA, the home of their mother and Cuba, the home of Ernest and his assorted wives, to 2001 when she sadly died in jail.

Chronicling Gregory’s life and his relationship with his family while he struggles to live a ‘normal’ life, the author gives the reader insight into his courage and resilience to finally ‘come out of the closet’ and live his life in an era where there was no tolerance for his lifestyle. 

Compassionate and eye-opening, the moving story of Gregory/Gigi/Gloria, who spent much of his life denying his gender dysphoria, gives the reader an insight into last century’s countless struggles of transgender people; many of these still exist today.  

Although some readers many find the movement of timelines between early childhood memories and adulthood events disconcerting, I highly recommend this fascinating biographical account of a little known member of a well-known author. The Broken Places is an absorbing read.