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!
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