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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The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Published By: Touchstone

Date of Publication: October 24, 2005

Categories: Adult, Historical Fiction, Series.

Pages: 393

Summary (from goodreads.com): Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both kings and crusaders. At the age of three, she is betrothed to Prince Arthur, son and heir of Henry VII of England, and is raised to be Princess of Wales. She knows that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land.” “Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable. Unexpectedly in this arranged marriage, a tender and passionate love develops.” But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is indomitable. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it.

Review: I have to start off by saying that I’m a little obsessed with the Tudors. I loved The Tudors TV series with Jonathan Rhys Myers and Henry Cavill. It was amazing and I highly recommend it. It’s so incredibly good.

It was interesting to see how the book started with Katherine as a child, though it made sense as the book went on – it helped the explain the decisions that Katherine made and where her motivation came from. I thought it also gave a fuller picture of what was going on in Europe at the time.

Getting to see Henry as a young prince who was never really meant to be king was something that I really enjoyed. I never really thought much about where he came from before, but his decisions later in life definitely made more sense with his childhood as context.

The pacing was great, I never felt bored while I was reading, I always wanted to know what was going to happen next.

It was interesting to get Katherine’s point of view as well. I liked hearing about a strong woman who knew what she wanted and was willing to do the hard work to get what she wanted.

While I know there’s a lot in this book that isn’t true, I think that’s the fun of historical fiction.

I’ve read The Other Boleyn Girl a few years ago, and after reading The Constant Princess, I’m really looking forward to reading The Other Boleyn Girl again, this time with the foundation of knowing more about Katherine.

Image: goodreads.com

Father of Lies by Ann Turner

Published By: Harper Teen

Date of Publication: February 8, 2011

Categories: Historical Fiction, Mental Illness, YA

Pages: 256

Summary (from goodreads.com):

Truth or Lies?

Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, Lidda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can’t, or won’t. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?

Gripping and emotional, Ann Turner’s retelling of the Salem witch trials captures one girl’s brave soul-searching amidst a backdrop of fear and blame.

Review: I reading about two things – the Salem Witch Trials and mental illness. Father of Lies combines them both, so I was bound to enjoy this book as much as I did.

Lidda was a great main character. I found her different than most of the female characters I’ve read about during time period. Lidda loves to do all the things that are looked down on in Salem. How dare a young woman want to dance! Absolutely shocking! Lidda definitely felt the confines of the expectations that were placed on her by her community.

All of the characters felt very real. Ann Turner did a great job of creating a cast that felt believable. I felt like I knew everyone, from Lidda’s family, to her friends. Lucien was a very creepy character. You were never really sure when he would pop up, but when he did, you knew there would be trouble coming.

I thought it was interesting that members of Lidda’s family had different reactions to the Witch Trials. It was great to hear differing point of view that I hadn’t heard before. I somehow sort of thought that everyone had been taken in, and no one could see what was actually going in.

It was a relatively quick read, which I think worked for this book. By the time I was finished reading it, I felt like all the answers were given, I didn’t feel like things were rushed or that I missed out on anything.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction or mental illness, I would definitely recommend this book.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Published By: Macmillan Children’s Books

Year of Publication: February 6, 2009

Categories:Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Pages: 359

Summary (from goodreads.com): Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself – and others – in order to be set free. And love may be the key…

Review: To be honest, the first thing that drew me in with this book was the cover. I love it! Once I read the summary, I knew that I had to read it. And I’m very happy that I did.

Louisa was a great character. Although she was living during the Victorian era, when women were only allowed to do certain things, that didn’t stop her from wanting to become a doctor like her dad. Her struggle to want to live out her dream is what made me want to read about her.

This book really made me think that I was in the 19th century in Britain. It was probably my favorite thing about it. I absolutely love when a book transports me away like that. If you’re looking for a book to make you forget about real life for awhile, this is definitely the one for you.

I really enjoyed the writing. The story lines flowed well, and I didn’t want to put it down. She manages to alternate between Louisa’s present in the asylum, and her past back at home with her family without being confusing. It was great to be able to learn more about Louisa and her family in the flashbacks, which explain how she ended up in the asylum. There was enough detail to help me imagine exactly what things looked like, without there being too many details and being overwhelming. I know it’s a fine line, but Jane Eagland managed to walk it perfectly.

I will definitely be reading more by Jane Eagland.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published By: Aladdin

Year of Publication: March 1, 2002

Categories: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 256

Summary (from goodreads.com): It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.

Review: This is the second book I’ve read by Laurie Halse Anderson, and it’s the second book of hers that I’ve really liked. The other book by L aurie that I’ve read was Wintergirls, so I was pretty excited to get a taste of her writing in a historical fiction novel. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

I thought the main character, Mattie was very likable – everything from her relationship with her mom, to her liking Nathaniel. My favorite character though had to be Mattie’s grandpa. He was willing to risk everything for Mattie, even his life. There were a few heartbreaking scenes, and I felt like I was going through it right with the characters.

While I was reading it, I felt like I was in Philadelphia in the late 18th century. The descriptions were vivid and made me feel like I was in the middle of everything right with Mattie. I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to have to live through something like that. That fear came through loud and clear in the book. It would be so strange to see the capitol of a nation practically turned into a ghost town. The whole time I was rooting for Mattie and her grandpa, hoping that things would turn out alright for them.

If you’re looking for a historical fiction novel about the yellow fever epidemic, this is definitely the book to go with.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Published by: Dutton Adult

Year of Publication: September 28, 2010

Categories: Adult, Historical Fiction, War.

Pages: 985

Summary (from Goodreads):The first novel in The Century Trilogy, this book follows the fates of five interrelated families-American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh-as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man’s world in the Welsh mining pits…Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House…two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution…Billy’s sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London…

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves-and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.

Review: I have to start off my saying that I’ve only read two other books by Ken Follett – Pillars of the Earth and World Without End – and I absolutely loved them! The characters he creates are compelling and believable. They bring the time period to life, I feel like I’m right there with them. So I was pretty excited when I got Fall of Giants for Christmas.

I wasn’t disappointed, even though I had high expectations. It was exactly what I was expecting – rich descriptions, unforgettable characters, and plot twists.

Fall of Giants takes place before, during, and after WWI. It takes a time period when a lot happened, and there were a ton of players, and make it easily understandable. The large cast of characters made it possible for Follett to give many points of view, something that I really enjoyed. It’s easy to put labels on people, but because you got to see things from so many different points of view, it made it a lot harder to do that. It definitely gave me a better understanding of WWI.

This is the first book in a trilogy that will span the 20th century. I can’t wait til the next one is released – seriously CAN’T WAIT! I’ve now fallen in love with the characters and desperately what to know what will happen to them next.

If you’re looking for a historical fiction novel that centers on WWI, this is definitely the pick for you.

Connect with Ken Follett:

Website

Twitter

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Shephanie Hemphill

Published By: HarperCollins

Year of Publication: July 1st 2010

Categories: YA; historical fiction

Pages: 408

Summary (from goodreads.com): Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials based on the real historical characters, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692—Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam Jr.
When Ann’s father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcraft, Ann sees an opportunity and starts manifesting the symptoms of affliction. Ann looks up to Mercy, the beautiful servant in her parents’ house. She shows Mercy the power that a young girl is capable of in a time when women were completely powerless. Mercy, who suffered abuse at the hands of past masters, seizes her only chance at safety. And Ann’s cousin Margaret, anxious to win the attention of a boy in her sights, follows suit. As the accusations mount against men and women in the community, the girls start to see the deadly ramifications of their actions. Should they finally tell the truth? Or is it too late to save this small New England town?

Review: I didn’t realize til I started reading it, that this book is written entirely in verse. When I first opened the book up and saw that, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it, as silly as that sounds. I thought it would be strange to have a book written like that, and hard to understand. However, once I was a few pages in I realized that it wasn’t bad at all, and I actually really enjoyed reading it how it was formatted. So no worries there.

I decided to read Wicked Girls because I’m interested in the Salem Witch Trials. I always have been. I’m not quite sure what I find so interesting about it, but every time I hear something about it, my ears perk up.

Most of the books that I’ve read have been from the victim’s point of view. This one was from the accusers point of view, who I hadn’t really thought of before. So it was great to get “the other side of the story”, and get a glimpse of what might have been going through their heads at the time.

Out of all the characters, I liked Mercy the most. I felt bad for her that she was a servant. It wasn’t her fault that she had that position in life. I thought she was for the most part a nice person. I think out of all the girls who were accusers, she was one of the ones who felt the worst about what she had done.

Looking back on the book now, it’s pretty amazing that a town could be torn apart, and many lives lost because of the words of female teens. I think that they were one of the least heard and respected groups during that time, but during the Salem Witch Trials they were some of the most respected (maybe more feared) groups. What a role reversal!

Probably my favorite part of the novel was the end of the  book, where the author discussed the real people that the characters were based on, both the accusers and the accused. I felt like I knew a lot of the characters, and it was really interesting to hear what happened to them.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

Image: Goodreads