Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Paris Wife, a novel by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife: A NovelA deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.,0,0,0_.png

Author Paula McLain on The Paris Wife 
Most of us know or think we know who Ernest Hemingway was -- a brilliant writer full of macho swagger, driven to take on huge feats of bravery and a pitcher or two of martinis -- before lunch. But beneath this man or myth, or some combination of the two, is another Hemingway, one we’ve never seen before. Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, is the perfect person to reveal him to us -- and also to immerse us in the incredibly exciting and volatile world of Jazz-age Paris.
The idea to write in Hadley’s voice came to me as I was reading Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, about his early years in Paris. In the final pages, he writes of Hadley, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” That line, and his portrayal of their marriage -- so tender and poignant and steeped in regret -- inspired me to search out biographies of Hadley, and then to research their brief and intense courtship and letters -- they wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of delicious pages to another!
I couldn’t help but fall in love with Hadley, and through her eyes, with the young Ernest Hemingway. He was just twenty when they met, handsome and magnetic, passionate and sensitive and full of dreams. I was surprised at how much I liked and admired him -- and before I knew it, I was entirely swept away by their gripping love story.
I hope you will be as captivated by this remarkable couple as I am -- and by the fascinating world of Paris in the 20’s, the fast-living, ardent and tremendously driven Lost Generation.

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway on their wedding day, 1921 

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway, Chamby, Switzerland, winter 1922

My Review:
          Having never read Hemingway, I don’t think I would have even given this book a second look, even though I found the cover intriguing. Needing to read it for book club, I dove in to the book. At first, I found the reading quite slow – actually, the entire book was a slow read. An English teacher friend and fellow “Bookie” told me that it was written in a literary style and would be a slow read.

          I did find parts of the book fascinating as I read sentences such as “…Picasso walking from Saint-Germain to his apartment the rue des Grands Augustins…” and “…having a night out on our own at the Dingo when Scott Fitzgerald came over from the bar and introduced himself…” Then, “James Joyce has apparently fathered six more children just this week…”

          The name-dropping in this factious book that may or may not be an exact accounting of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, is exciting. You get a true accounting of what life was like in the 1920s in Paris, where life seemed care-free and alcohol consumption was outrageous. Hadley wanted simple things, and Hemingway, as well as the Paris scene, overwhelmed her at times.

          When the Hemingway’s moved to Paris, Hemingway grew into himself, discovering himself as a writer, leaving Hadley behind. She wasn’t ready for what Paris threw into their lives.

          I think by all accounts, that Hemingway never fell out of love with Hadley, even as the years went by. I was also disappointed to find that Hemingway was such a self-centered egotistical person, who all but drove people from his life, before his dramatic exit from this life by suicide.

          Having confessed that, I still recommend reading the book. It was very well written and the story did manage to captivate me as a reader. The book gives us insight into the personal life of a great writer. Enjoy.

The Paris Wife can be purchased on Amazon

If you thought my review was helpful, I would greatly appreciate it if you would follow the link to Amazon and vote “yes” on my review.



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  3. Excellent read! I rarely find current literature that hooks me like this one did. Interesting how people with excessive amounts of leisure time, money and moral freedom are so miserable.


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