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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Book Description from
     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.

My Ponderings:
     I want to begin by announcing that I thought this book was excellent! The book is a fictionalized story based on documented events which is narrated by Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, and covers the span of their relationship with a brief overview of their lives following. I was immediately drawn into the lives of these characters as they work at building a life together in 1920s Paris. Although their marriage is relatively brief, lasting approximately five years, the readers gets the sense that their relationship was a substantial part of their lives and who they were to become.
     I was instantly captivated by Hadley's voice and her ability to adapt to what is often a nontraditional lifestyle. She loved Ernest before he was well-known and successful, and ardently encouraged and supported his writing through difficult financial and emotional circumstances. I found myself questioning if his writing would have developed as quickly without the freedom she permitted him to focus entirely on his craft.
     It is clear that the author thoroughly researched these characters and the '20s lifestyle in Paris which featured characters such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. As large as a character as Ernest Hemingway was in real life as well as in this fiction, this really is Hadley's story. These are amazingly creative souls and through her viewpoint, we have the opportunity to see the destruction that was produced in creating their art.
     Ernest goes on to marry three times following his marriage to Hadley but she clearly left as great an impression on him as she does the reader of The Paris Wife. What appears as weakness in the beginning is revealed to be an incredible inner strength as she moves forward and finds the contentment that she had always been seeking.

Happy Reading,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading:

After finishing Paula McClain's "The Paris Wife," I was inspired to read more Hemingway.

Up Next:

My book club announced Deborah Harkness' "A Discovery of Witches" as the next selection. I know many book bloggers have read and enjoyed this book so I am excited to check it out.

Recently Finished:

I finished Helen Simonson's "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" while on vacation. You can read my review here    

Paula McLain's "The Paris Wife" was the last book that I finished and I hope to write up my thoughts to post soon. I LOVED this book!

The summer is quickly winding up and delivering us into fall. I hope everyone finds some time to enjoy the sunshine and curl up with a good book.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Random House, New York, 2010          358 pages

"If we just keep dividing things up, each generation more people demanding their share of the goodies, it just all vanishes as if it never mattered."     ~ Major Pettigrew

From Publishers Weekly:
In her charming debut novel, Simonson tells the tale of Maj. Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound Englishman and widower, and the very embodiment of duty and pride. As the novel opens, the major is mourning the loss of his younger brother, Bertie, and attempting to get his hands on Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun—part of a set that the boys' father split between them, but which Bertie's widow doesn't want to hand over. While the major is eager to reunite the pair for tradition's sake, his son, Roger, has plans to sell the heirloom set to a collector for a tidy sum. As he frets over the guns, the major's friendship with Jasmina Ali—the Pakistani widow of the local food shop owner—takes a turn unexpected by the major (but not by readers). The author's dense, descriptive prose wraps around the reader like a comforting cloak, eventually taking on true page-turner urgency as Simonson nudges the major and Jasmina further along and dangles possibilities about the fate of the major's beloved firearms. This is a vastly enjoyable traipse through the English countryside and the long-held traditions of the British aristocracy.

My Ponderings:
     This is such a charming novel filled with endearing characters. Although it is a love story at root, it deals with a number of themes-- consumerism, the generation gap, dealing with loss, aging, family dynamics, the classes, and how one defines success.
     Major Pettigrew is an instantly likeable character and you will likely find yourself cheering him on as he promotes his view of good, old-fashioned values and manners and tries to find love for a second time with the enchanting Mrs. Ali. The world has changed dramatically throughout his lifetime, but Major Pettigrew has found a way to stay centered and keep focused on the greater outcome.
     The Churchill guns that were gifted to Major Pettigrew and his brother, Bertie, from their father, are inanimate characters within the sequence of events that unfold throughout the novel. Each brother was given a gun upon their father's passing and the pair of guns were to be united to the last living brother. Following Bertie's death, Major Pettigrew is eager to receive the second Churchill gun but Bertie's wife, as well as their daughter and Roger, the Major's son, have their own ideas of preservation. In the end, the Major learns that it was the not the gun that he should have coveted throughout the years, but a stronger relationship with his brother.
     The author paints a beautiful landscape for the characters to come to life in
the quaint town of Edgecome St. Mary in Sussex, England. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a reminder to hold tight to all that you find dear. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite tea, and enter into the English countryside through this delightful book.

"The world is full of small ignorances...We must all do our best to ignore them and thereby keep them small, don't you think?"   ~Mrs. Ali

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Lori from Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book for winning the giveaway of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing!

Stay tuned for new giveaways coming soon!

I hope everyone is enjoying the last days of summer with some great reading!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rest and Relaxation

I've been enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation in the beautiful Bahamas. I will return soon with more book'ish thoughts and news. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer with great reading!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Elegant Simplicity of Plainsong

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

1999, Vintage Books - a division of Random House, Inc., 301 pages

From Publishers Weekly
In the same way that the plains define the American landscape, small-town life in the heartlands is a quintessentially American experience. Holt, Colo., a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf's beautifully executed new novel. Alternating chapters focus on eight compassionately imagined characters whose lives undergo radical change during the course of one year. High school teacher Tom Guthrie's depressed wife moves out of their house, leaving him to care for their young sons. Ike, 10, and Bobby, nine, are polite, sensitive boys who mature as they observe the puzzling behavior of adults they love. At school, Guthrie must deal with a vicious student bully whose violent behavior eventually menaces Ike and Bobby, in a scene that will leave readers with palpitating hearts. Meanwhile, pregnant teenager Victoria Roubideaux, evicted by her mother, seeks help from kindhearted, pragmatic teacher Maggie Jones, who convinces the elderly McPheron brothers, Raymond and Harold, to let Victoria live with them in their old farmhouse. After many decades of bachelor existence, these gruff, unpolished cattle farmers must relearn the art of conversation when Victoria enters their lives. The touching humor of their awkward interaction endows the story with a heartwarming dimensionality. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family. In depicting the stalwart courage of decent, troubled people going on with their lives, Haruf's quietly eloquent account illumines the possibilities of grace.

My Thoughts
     Plainsong by Kent Haruf is a wonderful novel filled with delicately beautiful characters whose simplicity endears them to the reader. We are given a glimpse into the lives of each character as their stories intertwine over a brief course of time.
     The writing flows gently with dialog spilling into the story without quotation separation. At first, I was unsure of what to think of the format but I soon discovered that each sentence rolled perfectly into the next, presenting the story as a landscape in itself.
     The characters are genuine and instantly draw the reader's sympathy as each deals with their own emotional onslaughts. The book addresses how we adjust to life-changing experiences at different age levels with characters representing various stages of life. Each finds themselves at a crossroads, easing into their existence one day at a time. They are characters that will linger with you.
     The only negative was that it had to end. I wanted to keep reading about these people and see how their situations evolved and where life led them as time progressed. Plainsong defines how simplicity is sometimes all that is needed to create a story that enchants the reader.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading:
From the Cover: Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. From simple elements, Haruf achieves a novel of wisdom and grace- a narrative that builds in strength and feeling until, as in a choral chant, the voices in the book surround, transport, and lift the reader off the ground. (From the citation for the National Book Award nomination)

Coming Up:

Recently Finished:
I recently finished reading Lambrusco by Ellen Cooney. You can read my thoughts on this novel here:

Current Giveaway:
My new giveaway is a hardcover copy of "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" by Melissa Bank.  * To enter, simply state in your comment that you are interested in this giveaway. The deadline to enter is Sunday, Aug. 19.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wildlife Photography

Nature's Beauty
These pics are linked up to Saturday Snapshot, a super fun meme hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Head on over and check out some great photos!

A doe and her fawn we spotted just outside of our backyard earlier this week.
The humidity was so high that my camera lens kept fogging.

Mother tending to her baby's needs. Such a beautiful sight!
Take some time today to explore your surrounding and discover nature's beauty.


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