Friday, March 1, 2013

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.
I read The Paris Wife for my Library book club and I hated it.  It has to be the single most depressing life story book I have ever read.  I knew Hemingway was not the best of individuals but to read about how he treated his wife and friends in this work of fiction (I have to keep reminding myself it is fiction) just made me hate him even more. 
Hemingway's Passport Photo
Hadley was a number of years older than Hemingway but she was so true and loyal to him even when he left her for long stretches in Paris where she knew no one and had nothing.  Even when he openly flirted and eventually left her for Hadley's best friend, Hemingway's second wife.
Ernest and Pauline's wedding photo 1927
What I did like about the book is how, when Ernest and Hadley escaped the surroundings of their literary/art friends they seemed so strong together.  Their vacations were what helped me get through the book.  I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the trips to Spain since I spent a lot of time in Spain.
Hemingway (left), with Harold Loeb,
Lady Duff Twysden (in hat), Hadley Richardson, Donald Ogden Stewart (obscured), and Pat Guthrie (far right) at a café in Pamplona, Spain, July 1925.
But it was also on one of these trips that it became clear that Hadley was loosing Ernest.  He wanted so much not to loose Hadley that he begged her to try and make it work with the three of them, insert rolling eyes here.  
Hemingway (in white trousers and dark top) fighting a bull in the amateur corrida at Pamplona fiesta, July 1925.
I kind of wish he had been gouged by one of the bulls, but then again we wouldn't have his great works.  Now though I can't look at them the same, after discovering what type of person he was it makes it hard for me to read anything about him without an overwhelming feeling of loath.  
I didn't realize until I was done with The Paris Wife that I have never read a novel by Hemingway.  So I guess I should give one a try.  I want to read The Sun Also Rises because that is the one he was writing when married to Hadley and is about Spain. 
If you want to learn more about Hemingway then this might be a read for you but be warned you will not walk away with a feeling of a devastating love story you will just walk away discussed with the characters.
I'm linking up with Ricky Jill's Literary Friday, come join us.


C Pohl said...

I loved that book, knew nothing about Hemingway, for me very informative!!!

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

I hated the book, too. I know it's fiction, but it was still based on fact. Hemingway was so awful to Hadley.

I thought that the book was very well-written, but I should have known better...I knew how the story ended before I started reading it. SO stupid of me!

I wonder if Hemingway was truly that obsessive with his writing. It seemed out of character with his icky machismo character, in a way....

Thanks for linking-up, my dear. I still haven't made it over to the library book club, but maybe eventually I'll get there!