One of the reasons I belong to my book club (called “The Book Bags”) is that I get to read a lot of books that normally would not cross my path. Our latest read, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was one of them.
Introducing – Hadley
The genre of this book is historical fiction, told from the point of view of Hadley Richardson, who became the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. It’s worth noting, however, that the author did an incredible amount of research while writing this story and had access to correspondence between Hadley and Ernest along with other historical source materials.
The Roaring 20’s & The Elite
The book recounts their time in Paris during the 20’s as they hung out with folks such as Gertrude Stein and Alice Tolkias, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Erza Pound and many more interesting and zany characters of high society. The book takes us to fashionable Paris cafes, violet bullfighting in Spain and calm villas in Italy. The Paris scenes were my favorite though (perhaps being a former French teacher may have something to do with that) and I love reading what felt like a first-hand account of Paris life during the Roaring 20’s.
The book was evocative of the time period and while reading, I felt at times as though I were really there. It made me think of the movie “Midnight in Paris” when Owen Wilson time-travels back to the 20’s and ends up partying with the Fitzgerald’s among others. But I digress.
The Paris Wife is told from Hadley’s first-person point of view as she struggles to fit in with a crowd that has little in common with her traditional values, while at the same time trying to remain supportive of Ernest’s work and dark moods. This is an intimate novel and by the end of the book, I felt that I knew Hadley so well I almost considered her a dear friend by the end of the book —— and when Ernest and Hadley’s friend Pauline betray her and heartlessly flaunt their affair in front of her, we can’t help feeling devastated right along with her.
Like I said, this isn’t normally the type of book I’d pick up on my own but I’m so glad I did. The author did a masterful job of telling Hadley and Ernest’s story. It’s a riveting emotional character-driven tale of passion, intense love, uncertainty, regret, heartbreak and ultimately, self-discovery. Ms. McLain has crafted a riveting novel with an exquisite amount of atmosphere yet with a steady mounting sense of impending doom. But Hadley comes out of it empowered, realizing finally who she really is once she steps out of Ernest Hemingway’s shadow.
This was a moving story and well worth a read, especially if you’re familiar with Hemingway’s work or enjoy novels set during this time period. But even if you’re not a Hemingway fan, The Paris Wife has plenty to offer and it kept me interested until the end. The author did a commendable job of portraying the larger-than-life Hemingway through the eyes of his wife. Recommended!
You can check out The Paris Wife HERE.