They were all young and so full of hope, back in 1958. Students, writers, young radicals, and party seekers…they had the future before them, and they were eager to reach out for it. They hung out in Greenwich Village, but their partying took them all over the city.

The core group included Cliff Nelson, whose father was Chief Editor at a large publishing house. Cliff, however, had dropped out of Columbia and despite his life of entitlement and privilege, found himself rudderless when his father cut him off financially. Nevertheless, his background gave him a confidence and brashness that stayed with him for a while…but then his inability to launch his writing career had him scrambling to find another way. Flawed and unable to view his own qualities honestly, Cliff was an interesting character, but unlikeable in many ways.

Eden Katz had come to New York from Indiana, and with her eye on an eventual job as an editor for a publishing house, she brought with her two letters of introduction. How she uses the second letter forms a part of her story after she realizes that sometimes you can trust the wrong people.

Miles Tillman, a young black man and recent graduate of Columbia supports himself as a bicycle messenger while seeking more permanent work. A journey to San Francisco in search of his father’s mysterious journal from his war years leads Miles to unexpected connections. While he struggles to make sense of his life, he finds himself pondering a lifestyle that could cement his role as an outsider.

Hangers-on like Rusty Morrisdale, full of himself and his job working for a literary agent, found a peripheral role in the group, but his behavior was obnoxious. Others put up with him, believing he had something to offer. Then there was good looking Bobby who drew many to him, just because of his beauty and his charisma. These extraneous characters reveal themselves occasionally, but really add little to the story, except as cautionary reminders of what to avoid. Or as foils for the primary characters.

Can the characters reach their dreams? What will they have to do to make that happen? Will the past rear its ugly head and bring them down? What would be the eventual links between them that would last beyond those early years, and how would the events of their youth inform their lives? Then, as a final twist, the author fast-forwards to the 1980s to reveal some of the consequences in the characters’ lives.

Three-Martini Lunch was alternately narrated by Cliff, Eden, and Miles. Their antics, their dreams, and what they would do to achieve them resonates for those who have lived during those times. The author vividly paints the scenes, depicting the era with authenticity, bringing a nostalgic glimmer to those moments from the past. The typewriter as an instrument felt like a poignant reminder of what once was, for those who now enjoy the technology of computers and social networking, while the party scenes vividly show the reader what real life connections look like. 5 stars.


Even though this book is listed as “fiction,” it feels as much like a memoir as anything I have read. Published posthumously, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast chronicles a time when the writer was young, often strapped for cash, but seemingly at his best in terms of his craft, his zeal, and the “literary feasts” that he enjoyed in the company of other writers–many of whom were expatriates like Hemingway.

Surrounded by such greats as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway shone as a young writer moving up. Despite the constant party swirling around all of them, nothing seemed to stifle the “unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm.”

Unlike other stories I have read from this time, the relationship with his first wife Hadley felt almost like a footnote. She is mentioned frequently, but mostly in her secondary role as wife and companion. His first love was the all-consuming writing craft and the cafes he inhabited in order to soak up the ambience that enriched his prose.

Despite the rather spare style, which is typical Hemingway, I could almost see, hear, and smell the Paris of the 1920s. Hemingway wrote in a conversational voice, as if sharing his thoughts and feelings. In this way, I, as the reader, could almost glimpse the world firsthand.

A very engaging portrait of a time in a writer’s life, and the world populated by other greats: five stars!