The Paris Wife – The Story of Hadley Hemingway

by Mk

in Bestsellers,Fiction,Historical

Paula McLain brings Hadley Richardson Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway and the Paris of the 1920’s to life in The Paris Wife. I have to admit that I was skeptical about reading this novel. I don’t normally read fictionalized books about real people and, when I have in the past, I haven’t been thrilled with the results. That is not the case here. I’m so glad I read this novel!

 I love that The Paris Wife is written from Hadley’s perspective instead of her husband’s. I was swept up in their grand courtship, the naïve young girl who has already been labeled a spinster but falls for the dapper, erudite young man. The more experienced woman in me kept shaking her head about this not ending well. Yes, the signs were there even early in the book that this man was not stable; however, she couldn’t have seen them.

 “Scott could be a terrible, painful drunk. Ernest could shove cruelly against everyone who ever helped him up and loved him well – but none of that mattered when the patient was at hand. In the end, for both of them, there was really only the body on the table and the work, the work, the work.”

McLain is able to transcend the dryness that I normally associate with books like this one. This story is gripping from Page 1 until the very end. Even though we all know the “facts” of their marriage, Ms. McLain has let us into their private psychological and emotional world – and has done so in a very believable way. It is important to remember that this is fiction; however, it rings so true that it’s hard at times to do that.

The glitterati that surrounded the Hemingways in Paris and the roaring 20’s artistic lifestyle alone make for a fun read. Add to that the trials and tribulations of Hemingway’s tortured gift as well as Hadley’s growth and transformation/illumination, and you’ve got one hell of a great read!

“To walk the best streets of Paris just then was like having the curtained doors of a surreal circus standing open so you could watch the oddity and the splendor at any hour.”

 Since most people know at least the basics of Ernest Hemingway’s marriages and life, I don’t feel I’m giving any spoilers away. Hadley’s eyes were gradually opened to the impossibility of staying with someone who treated her as Ernest did. I applauded the courage it took for her to break away from his magnetic pull. Everyone has a limit and she reached hers. Good for her!

“In the end Ernest, didn’t have the luck I did at love…He had four wives altogether and many lovers as well. It was sometimes painful for me to think that to those who followed his life with interest, I was just the early wife, the Paris wife.”


Enjoy this captivating read! If you’ve read The Paris Wife, I’d love to hear your comments!

If you like our review, please +1 it and/or share it with your friends!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

techeditor October 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I read it. I didn’t love it like you did. Hemingway and his Paris life and friends disgusted me.

I understood Hadley and how she got into that mess. She had led a sheltered life and had missed out on so much. Then she started partying in Chicago, and so what that Hemingway was too young and wild for her, this life was fun, and she wanted to have finally have fun. So she promised that she’d support whatever he wanted, and she did until she couldn’t stand the threesome in her bad anymore.

Hemingway and his Paris friends didn’t want to grow up. They drank and drank and drank and partied all the time. None of them had a real job but were wealthy or had their wife’s trust fund (as in Hemingway’s case).

I didn’t think the book was gripping. I wanted to throw it across the room half the time. I think Hemingway was spoiled and had it pretty good.


Mk October 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Thanks for the feedback. I got very frustrated at times too and got horribly angry at Hemingway for the way her treated her. I wanted to yell at her to run as far away from him as she could. Still, I couldn’t put it down – I had to keep reading it.

I could see how Hadley ended up in that mess of a marriage too – and it was definitely a mess. Hemingway took advantage of her big time but that was par for the course for someone so self-centered.

What I loved about it is that it’s the first book I’ve read that came from her POV instead of his. It’s really her story. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that – everything else I’ve read has talked about him like he was some kind of literary god, not an insecure, severely troubled, quite possibly mentally ill man.

She fell for a classic bad boy but she was ill-prepared for the realities of what that meant. I think we’re meant to see the warts on Hemingway and his crowd in this novel, and to see how incompatible they became as he ran away more and more from reality and she stayed so very reality based. I applaud her for tearing herself away from that situation and going toward what would eventually make her happy!


techeditor October 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm

The threesome was in her bed, not her bad. Typo


Mk October 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for letting me know about the typo – argh, hate it when that happens!


Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: