Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review -- The Paris Wife


The Paris Wife

My enjoyment rating: 4½ out of 5 stars

Book source:  Library copy

Sensitive reader:  minor sexual innuendo

I’ve never read a single word written by Ernest Hemingway. An embarrassing confession coming from someone who likes to read as much as I do. But after reading Paula McClain’s “The Paris Wife” I am convinced that Hadley Richardson, his first wife, was the catalyst that set his brilliant career in motion.

On a trip to visit a friend in Chicago, Hadley meets a charming, athletic, much younger man, who goes by the nickname of “Wem” (among others). After a brief courtship, and long distance relationship, that included LOTS of love letters, they marry and set off for Paris where they are convinced his art and talent will be nurtured by the artist-expatriates who have settled there. There they find romance, hardships, anger, have a child, imbibe on lots of alcohol and, ultimately, another woman, who will destroy everything they have.

I was absolutely engrossed in this novel from the first page. Told from Hadley’s point of view…I honestly felt like I was reading her memoir. And after I was done, I wished she had written one, because I wanted more.

Obviously, this is historical FICTION, but I thought the author excelled at creating a complete picture of their relationship – their life in Paris, their travels, the marital conflict, and their associations with the literary giants of the time – Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was so real, which is why I’ve had such a hard time letting go of Hadley since I finished the book. She got under my skin -- this extremely talented, intellectual, creative, women who was the first causality in Hemingway’s grandiose career.

We know so much about him, even without having read a single word, I’m glad Paula McClain has given us a glimpse of what Hadley’s life was like.

The author has a great website that includes pictures of Hadley and Ernest, their Paris apartment, and "fact vs. fiction" section that reveals much more about their lives and their acquaintainces. 

And as a side note...the actress, Mariel Hemingway, is Hadley's granddaughter. 

Here is more from the author: