Grafton Public Library

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Posted by bethg on

The Paris Wife book coverWhen it comes to learning about famous literary or historic figures, it pays to listen to the spouses’ point of view. Such was the case in The Aviator’s Wife  about Ann Morrow Lindbergh and so it is about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife in The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.

Hadley and Hemingway (H & H) met in Chicago in 1920 when she was 28 and he was 21. An aspiring writer, Hemingway worked at low-paying newspaper jobs before it occurred to him that given time and space, he could write about his own experiences, of which he would have plenty.

He was encouraged by Sherwood Anderson to go to Paris where all the action was. It was the Jazz Age in Paris, and Hemingway lived a bohemian lifestyle with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce to name a few. It was a fast-living, hard-drinking crowd with no apparent family values. When H & H had a son, Hadley could no longer keep up, and her husband’s interest and eyes wandered.

As much as she disliked bull-fighting, Hadley would accompany her husband to Pamplona, where he actually participated in amateur bullfighting. In addition, beside the fact that Hadley could no longer hold her husband’s interest, she seemed unaware that other women were flirting openly with him and in active pursuit mode.

As Hemingway’s work goes, I was never a big fan of The Old Man and the Sea with its simple declarative sentences, but I am curious to read The Sun Also Rises, which was written when he was married to Hadley.

Although this may not be the most stylistically perfect book, it provides insight into an American icon and what drove him. It also is a further reminder that often the most famous, intelligent, talented and handsome of men do not make the best husbands or fathers–Charles Lindbergh and Ernest Hemingway being prime examples.

In any case, Papa Hemingway, Hadley and Paris make for a good literary experience.

I give the book 3 9/10 picadors.

Happy reading from Beverly!

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