Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Paris Wife

I haven't talked about a book for quite a while and frankly, I haven't read anything worth a post.  I just finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and am surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.  
This fictional story, is written in the voice of Hadley Hemingway, the wife of Ernest Hemingway.  Ernest was 21 when he met Hadley, 8 years his senior.  She was an unworldly girl from St. Louis and he, a veteran of WWI as a Red Cross ambulance driver, met in Chicago and courted mostly by mail.  Ernest was Hadley's ticket out of her Victorian existence.  Soon after their marriage they sailed for France where Ernest was to pursue his writing.  They quickly fell into a literary society, making friends with the likes of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.  Always short of funds, the Hemingways found it difficult to keep up with the Salon Society.  If I had to use one word to describe Hadley it would be sturdy.  She wasn't fashionable or ambitious for herself.  Hadley was a strong supporter of the volatile Ernest and put her own needs and wants on hold to coddle to this strong charater. She seemed to do a lot of waiting.  Waiting for Ernest to come home for dinner, waiting for him to be published, waiting for him to come home from a journalism assignment.  As Hadley meets more ex-pats and "arty" wives she seems to "grow up" but not embrace the glamour.  She constantly encourages and supports Ernest.  Most likely he would not have become the acclaimed writer he did without her strength.  She remains first and foremost Ernest's wife and as it turns out, his starter wife.  Their widening circle of friends is convinced the Hemingway marriage is strong and will endure but Ernest soon falls to female temptation and the marriage falls apart.

This is NOT a representative photo of Hadley Richardson Hemingway!  The book cover above is a better likeness.

While A Moveable Feast was Ernest Hemingway's description of their time in Paris, The Paris Wife is the fictional account from Haley's vantage point.  The marriage lasted 5 years until divorce and Ernest's remarriage to their mutual friend, Pauline Pfeiffer.  Ernest would divorce and marry four times.  He lived in Paris only during his marriage to Hadley, thus the title, The Paris Wife.  
Paula McLain does a very good job of "speaking" for Hadley.  Ms. McLain used the writings of Ernest Hemingway, correspondence between Hadley and Ernest and other writing of the time to tell Hadley's story.  Her writing style draws the reader in to feel as though you are there witnessing what is taking place.  The rather dull Hadley, emerges as a devoted, loving spouse, who puts her husband and marriage before her own desires.  She is a voice of reason when her troubled husband becomes violent or melancholy.  McLain aptly describes the turmoil within Hadley as she wrestles with the decision to stop fighting for her marriage and let Ernest go.  

I would encourage you to read   The Paris Wife  and then A Moveable Feast.
If you've read this book, tell us what you think.  

1 comment:

  1. I love book recs...will definitely be checking this out!


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