Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Review The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

About The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (from author website)
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wifecaptures a remarkable period of time—Paris in the twenties—and an extraordinary love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

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 café 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 great romances in literary history.

My Thoughts:

I must admit that I have not read any of Hemingway's novels but am interested in his work and I have visited The Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. Despite this, the premise behind the novel The Paris Wife intrigued me as well as the setting of Paris. Paula Mclain does an excellent job of taking the reader to 1920's Paris featuring Hemingway's early career through the voice of his first wife Hadley Richardson. I found The Paris Wife to be a mesmerizing novel featuring the lost generation a  group of authors that included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald who lived life in a frenzy of parties and volatility. The Hemingway's weren't prepared for the drinking, competition amongst their friends, open relationships and beautiful woman they would meet and become friends with. There was much creativity and freedom that allowed Hemingway to spread his wings and find his way as a novelist. Hadley had much to do with this through the inspiration and support she gave him. We know that Hadley was Ernest's first wife (he had 4 wives) so it was not a surprise when the marriage is challenged and crumbles but it was difficult to read. Hadley endured a great deal as she truly adored and idolized Ernest and believed in his writing and abilities. This novel captured the voice of Hadley beautifully and I often felt as if I was reading a diary or a biography experiencing their life through her eyes. 

There is an epilogue that explains what happens to Hadley and Ernest but I found myself interested in reading more and searching for more information about Hadley and Ernest's lives after their marriage ended.  I am definitely interested in reading more of Hemingway's work and plan to read A Moveable Feast, which is a memoir of Hadley and Hemingway's life in Paris which was not published until after Hemingway's death. 

Check out a recent guest post and interview with the author Paula McClain that I posted a few months ago.

Thanks to  Random House  for sending me an advance copy of the book for review. 


  1. I hadn't thought about "what happened to Hadley after the divorce" ... I clicked over to the Wikipedia link - she seemed much happier post-Hemingway!

  2. I've never read Hemingway either, but think I'll like this book. I love it when a book makes me want to research a subject more.

  3. I almost picked this one up at Borders the other day, but I couldn't remember what bloggers had said about it (whether it was good or not). Now I regret not picking it up.


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