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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,


  1. Great book :) Ever since I read it I've wondered what might have been different about his life if they had stayed together.

  2. Hi Jennifer-- I know what you mean about how Hemingway's work would have progressed if he had stayed with Hadley. I can't stop thinking about this book!
    Thanks for visiting,

  3. I enjoyed this book, too, Rebecca. Perhaps you might like to link it in to Books You Loved August edition - or maybe you would like to wait for the September edition which will be posted on the 10th. Cheers

    PS A big thank you for following Carole's Chatter

  4. This is an interesting concept which probably reflects the truth in some way. Poor Hadley though. I always feel bad for those women that give so much of themselves only to be replaced by the next best thing. Great review.

    Marlene Detierro (Fishing Lodges Alaska)

  5. My daughter sent the book to me, and I loved it so thoroughly that I gave it to my sister. I recently ordered the same book from Amazon to give to a good friend. One of the best books I've read in years.
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