The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife December 19 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Summary from Goodreads:

A 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.

Review: To be honest I’ve never read anything by Earnest Hemingway before I read The Paris Wife. Now that I know more about him though, I might have to try one of his books.

This book isn’t so much about Hemingway, as it is about his first wife, Hadley. I had a hard time relating to her – she lived life thinking everything happened to her instead of her being able to go after the things she wanted. She wasn’t very good at being introspective and figuring things out. She seemed almost like a pushover – willing to say or do anything Hemingway wanted to do, even if it ended up making her miserable. I kept waiting for her to stick up for herself, but it never happened. I had a hard time liking her because of that.

I loved the setting of the book – Paris in the 1920’s. They travelled quite a bit, visiting different countries in Europe and spending time with friends (like fellow author F Scott Fitzgerald). It was pretty cool to get an inside view of what it was like to live the life of an author/artist at that time.

The book ends when their marriage does – but it does have a short epilogue to explain what happens to both Hemingway and Hadley. Looking back, you can see how it was either Hemingway’s big ego or mental illness that was his downfall.

If you’re looking for a book about Hemingway’s first marriage, I would definitely recommend this book, even if Hadley made me a little crazy.


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