Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


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 thoughts:
I love discovering the history behind real people and what really drove them to be who and what they were, but when reading a fictional account I am also left wondering how much is true and how much has been filled into the blanks left by history and the passage of time.  At times this story drew me in, and at others I felt like I was just waiting for something to happen.  Hadley spent a lot of time waiting for something to happen, waiting for Earnest to come home from a day of writing, waiting for him to return from a trip, waiting for her child to feel better, waiting to make a decision.  Perhaps that makes it fitting that the reader also feels a sense of waiting.

I found myself wanting Hadley to stand up for herself and to take a stand.  To not be so understanding of what her husband needed as an artist.  I think I would have enjoyed it more as well if she hadn't pointed out that there was going to be a woman who was going to be the one who would come between them at some point.  For people who already knew the history or the couple, they also already knew that someone was going to come in to break apart their bond, but I would have liked to have not known from the start what was coming.  It would have given me more of a chance to be in each of the moments instead of also being constantly on the alert for the "other woman".

This wasn't a book I loved or hated, it just didn't quite capture me as I hoped it would.  It seemed well done in the historical aspects and I enjoyed the peek into the lives of other artists of the time living in Paris.  The picture of the Fitzgerald's was definitely something!  I think for fans of Hemingway they may be disappointed by how he is portrayed.  He seems to be a very selfish man who is not fully able to love anyone else.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345521309
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 2/22/2011
Pages: 320

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