Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain

From book flap:

In Chicago in 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 finds herself captivated by his good looks, intensity, and passionate desire to write.  Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group of expatriates that includes, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

But the hard-drinking and fast-living cafe life does not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy.  As Hadley struggles with jealousy and self-doubt and Ernest wrestles with his burgeoning writing career, they must confront a deception that could prove the undoing of one of the greatest romances in literary history.

My Thoughts:

I LOVED THIS BOOK!! It is beyond fantastic!!  This is now my favorite read of 2011! I'll admit I was hesitant to read this book because of the wonderful reviews it had received and I worried that I would be disappointed - how wrong was I?  This book most definitely lived up to all the praise it has been getting from book bloggers, critics and anyone else who has read it.  It is mesmerizing and unforgettable!

McLain has written an unputdownable story about Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson - dubbed the Paris wife, because of the fact that the couple lived in Paris during the 1920s.  We get to read all about the first time they meet to the letters they write one another during their courtship.  Richardson is older and a bit reserved, whilst Hemingway is young and carefree.  And he is passionate about his writing - it is who he is.  Without his work, Hemingway feels rather empty.  And it definitely doesn't help that they happen to befriend some of literature's most renowned figures, like Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Mind you, they are also just starting to make names for themselves.

I should note, that though this book is about Hadley ( whom I loved reading about ), I found myself much more interested in Hemingway's character.  I loved reading about how his short story collections came about and how hard he worked on The Sun Also Rises (my favorite Hemingway book).  And I'll admit that I hated Hadley for a split second when she lost all of Tatie's (they were big on nicknames for one another) work on a train - how could she leave the bag unattended and not think someone might steal the bag (thieves do exist!)? why did she even think to stuff all of his writings in one bag and take it with her to begin with? - I did forgive her, eventually.  And there are other times that I'm disappointed with her decisions, but I realize that she was just trying to figure out how to make the best of some truly bad situations (absent husband, infidelity, betrayal). 

This is a book that leaves you wanting more - more of McLain's work and most definitely more of Hemingway's.  You want to devour his writings and try to make sense of this damaged man who could be so cruel to his loved ones and yet be able to produce such amazing stories. Its hard to remember that though you are reading about real life people, you are in fact reading a fictionalized version of them and their life story.  Or at least it was hard for me.  Either way you will not be disappointed with this fantastic novel.  It is worthwhile read for all fans of literary fiction (and fans of Hemingway). 

By the by, this was my final read for the Paris in July Challenge. I was a bit late to the game, but I've definitely enjoyed participating. Thanks to BookBath and Thyme for Tea!  Looking forward to next year's Paris in July Challenge!!  And now, I'm off to listen to some Tiersen.  Adieu!


Mrs. Fry said...

I too enjoyed this book. I can see you are a huge fan of Hemingway. Sadly, I find him ho-hum boring! I disliked how they constantly portrayed them as "poor." Poor people don't run off to Paris, and vacation in Madrid, etc. It is the Horatio Algier aspect that Americans so love. You can't be successful unless you struggled your way to the top.

Hadley was so caught up in being married to a younger man that she left her child with hired help as she ran after him. Another thing poor people cannot afford. "help."

I did love this insight into Hemingway's life since he is the "father" of American Literature. It was fascinating to read about him and others.

I read his book, A Moveable Feast, right after I finished this one, and actually preferred the fictionalized account by McLain.

I was happy that Hadley achieved happiness. She seems to be the only one who can out somewhat sane and normal, although of course she never produced great literature.

Your review was terrific. Made me want to go out and read it all over again.

Karen K. said...

I haven't read this yet but yesterday I was reading My Life in France by Julia Child and Hadley is in the book! They became quite friendly and attended her son's wedding (long after Hadley and Ernest split, he did not attend). I noticed My Life in France is on your TBR list -- it's wonderful!

Ti said...

I love books about Paris but I was turned off by this one when it first came out. I don't know why! Of course, many (including you) have said such great things about it, that I've changed my mind.

nomadreader said...

I am really looking forward to reading this one, so I'm thrilled to see you loved it so much. I'm a huge fan of fiction about real people, and this one just sounds so good.

Amanda said...

I'm currently reading this one and am loving it too. I actually picked it up and tried it a while back and just wasn't feeling it. But I recently read The Most Beautiful Walk in the World and the author is an obvious Hemingway fan. I am a sort of fan since I love love For Whom the Bell Tolls. I decided to read A Moveable Feast before I tried A Paris Wife again and it totally worked. It's like seeing Hemingway's side of the Paris time. So far I'm enjoying Hadley's version a bit more (probably because it's fuller since it's fiction) but definitely try A Moveable Feast.

Nadia said...

Brenda, I do love Hemingway's work - its just so good. I feel like he is able to capture something real and write about it in such a way that it doesn't lose any of its realness (does that make sense?). And you are so right, about their version of 'poor'. I thought the same thing! Seems like, for being poor folk, they were sure able to travel all over and stay on vacation for months on end. I would love to be their version of 'poor' - LOL! I still need to read A Moveable Feast. And I'm glad Hadley found happiness after having suffered through a marriage like that with Hemingway. I'm glad you liked my review - I didn't want to gush so much, but I couldn't help it! I loved the book!

Karen K, that is so cool that Hadley is in that book - I was going to read it for Paris in July, but just couldn't get through it (now I'm definitely going to try again). Glad you are enjoying that book - makes me think that perhaps my mood wasn't in the right frame of mind when I first picked it up. I'll try again later.

Ti, I love books about Paris, too! And truthfully, I wasn't so sure about this book either. I figured that since everyone loved it so much, I'd probably be the only who hated it (since that always seems to happen). Not the case this time. I loved this book! It is just so well written and captivating. You will not be disappointed, Ti.

nomadreader, you will love this book! And after reading this one, I can see why you enjoy reading fiction about real people - its so much fun! Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

Amanda, I'm glad you gave this one another go and its working out for you this time round. Sounds like reading Hemingway first helped - I need to read that book soon then. I've heard the Hadley version is so much better than Hemingway's - go figure :)

Unknown said...

Oh I'm glad you enjoyed this. It's still on my TBR list and I originally used the bf as a guinea pig. Upon looking at the cover and reading the first 20 pages he tutted and dismissed it as a 'girl's book' before he turned the page and - low and behold, he was converted! He loved it and was so moved by the story by the end.

He loves Hemingway...shamefully I've never read any..I'm always put off by the 'man's man' vibe. But I vow to read some this year.

Nadia said...

Relish, your bf is is spot on about this book - its definitely a moving read - you can't help but feel for these people whose lives are a such a crazy mess. You will not be disappointed! As for Hemingway, I say give his work a go - it is GOOOOOOOD!!

Wallace said...

I've had this book on my TBR for quite awhile, but keep wanting to read A Moveable Feast first. Maybe I should just take the plunge and read this first instead -- I'm even more intrigued now that you loved it so much!

Nadia said...

Wallace, you will love this book! I need to read A Moveable Feast, too! I hear it shows Hemingway's version of things and I'm itching to find out how he perceived his marriage and life in Paris to be.

Cath Brookes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cath Brookes said...

I loved The Paris Wife! Well written and very enthralling. I love that time period and all the writers and artists that were their friends!
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