Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review | The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published by Ballantine Books on February 27th 2011

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.


     I adore historical fiction. And what I really love, is historical fiction that is so good, that even people who avoid historical fiction like a root canal can’t even resist. Also, it doesn’t hurt when half of the main focus of said historical fiction, revolves around Ernest Hemingway.

    Feminists of the world, don’t judge me when I say this: I love Ernest Hemingway. Was he a misogynistic womanizer? Yes. But holy Corona typewriter, could he turn a phrase on the written page! Plus, I am a huge advocate on reading biographical-esque stories that humanize people that I’m fascinated with. And our buddy Ernie? What a captivating, talented, proud, and broken thing was he.

    In my opinion, Paula McLain is no small shakes in the storytelling department, either. This is one of those novels that digs its hooks into you immediately, after which, you will voluntarily catapult yourself through the rest of the pages of a novel that takes us through the relationship of a literary giant and a normal EveryWoman, in the backdrop of some pretty fantastic geographical locations, and sprinkling in even more big league players from the world of publishing and art in a fascinating, before they were famous, and in some cases, as they were famous.

    If I’ve never mentioned it before in any of my previous book reviews, I have an affinity/unhealthy preoccupation with broken things, i.e. people.  I get absurdly invested in the reasons that made them broken, and cling to the fleeting goodness within them long after it is sometime gone altogether.

    Hadley Richardson was a twenty eight year old women who has pretty much resigned herself to spinsterhood, when an escape to the city to stay with a friend puts her in the path of the freight train that was Ernest Hemingway. McLain then paints an exquisite picture of their relationship against the jazzy hustle and bustle of 1920s Paris. We are captivated by how the outside influences of their world both foster and strain their relationship, and how Hemingway’s internal conflicts threaten to tear them apart from the inside. We get a voyeuristic peek at how Hemingway was able to find inspiration to piece together his masterpieces and the price those forgings cost both Hemingway and Hadley personally.

    I lost a little piece of my soul inside this novel. I learned things about Paris. I learned things about Hemingway. I learned things about trying to hold on too tight to broken things. I learned things about myself.

    Read this novel. Lose a piece of your soul.  And see what you learn about life: theirs….and yours.




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