Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is another book that my daughter loaned me to read.  ***An aside: It makes me so proud that she reads such good books and either loans them to me or recommends them.  What more could an obsessed reading mother want?*** Anyway, I read it and it was chosen by one of my book groups to read, which is always great fun for me, because I love discussing the books that I have read with my book group!

The Paris Wife is a historical fiction novel about Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway.  It is the story of their meeting, their courtship and their marriage.  Hadley was 29 years old when she met the charismatic, charming 21 year old Ernest Hemingway, who swept her off her feet.  Hadley was from St. Louis and met Ernest in Chicago while there visiting a friend. they married in 1921, less than a year after first meeting.  Shortly after their marriage, they decided to move to Paris where Ernest wanted to pursue his writing.  Paris was the place to be in those years for young artist and writers and they soon began socializing with the "in" crowd.

As the title implies, the story is about the couple's years in Paris.  Those years were filled with love, sadness, betrayal, hope, and adventures.  However, it all ended badly and in 1933, Hadley divorced Ernest.   This novel portrays great love, despite the hardships.  It offers a side of Hemingway that is not often shown.

Ms. McClain (the author) wrote that she began to research and wrote the novel after having read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which was his story of the Paris years with Hadley.  She wrote that "I felt utterly transported into the world of 1920's Paris, and into the smaller, more profound (for me) world of Hemingway's first marriage, to Hadley Richardson."  and that she wondered "Just who was Hadley Richardson?"

Ms McClain began researching Hadley and Ernest, reading biographies of both, reading his early works and visiting the Hemingway archive at the JFK Memorial Library.  There she was able to read Hadley's letter written to Ernest during their courtship.

Hadley was the first of Ernest's four wives.  In the final pages of A Moveable Feast Ernest wrote of Hadley "I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her."  Beautiful sentiment and really kind of sums up the love that is written about in The Paris Wife.

One of the best things about the book for me was that it left me wanting to know more about both Hadley and Ernest and wanting to read (or re-read) Hemingway's works.  Always a good sign of a novel!

***Another aside: the cover of the book that most of us had is not a picture from the 1920' seems to be an apparent obvious case of trying to sell a book by its'
cover.  Shame.

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