Saturday 4 August 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I confess that I knew next to nothing about Ernest Hemingway before reading this book.

I knew he was regarded as a literary hero by many Americans, that he lived in Paris during the 1920's and hung out with the Scott Fitzgerald's, Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford & Stella etc.
I knew he was a heavy drinker  and not very well liked on a personal level.

The Paris Wife is based on Hemingway's first marriage to Hadley Richardson and their time together in Paris at the beginning of his career.

McLain's acknowledgment states her intention "to push deeper into the emotional lives of the characters and bring new insight into historical events, while staying faithful to the facts."
I don't know if she added any new insights to the Hemmingway mythology, but I enjoyed learning about her version of events.

I felt a genuine empathy and sympathy for Hadley, but found it harder to like Hemmingway. He came across as selfish, self-centred and thoughtlessly cruel.

McLain's writing was a delight. She evoked the period and Paris life beautifully. Hadley's time with Hemingway was obviously life changing for her.

Although this book was not life changing for me, I suspect it will be enough to start me on another Francophile phase of reading obsession!


  1. Francophile phases are all good I think. I've read a smattering of Hemmingway, and am interested to read more. I suspect that he was selfish, self-centred and thoughtlessly cruel though. I've heard of this book and would love to read it someday.

  2. I've been longing to read this one. Yes, from what I gathered, Hem was not quite an interesting man, but I think nearly all great authors must have their selfishness in a certain degree.

  3. I loved this book so so much! It's opened a world of other books - another great one is "Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin" all about women writers in the 1920's.

    Marlene Detierro (Fishing Lodge Alaska)

  4. Lovely written story and although you know where it ends, it is nice to read the journey to get there.
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