The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published: 2011 by Ballantine Books
Source: Advance Copy received from the publisher
First of all, a confession: I have never thought I would like Ernest Hemingway. I think I read one or two of his books long ago but I didn’t get anything out of them; and he has always struck me as a macho guy without anything to say that would be relevant to me.
That might still be true, but after reading The Paris Wife, I am willing to try him again. This novel is not about Hemingway himself so much as it is about his first wife, Hadley. The two met in Chicago in 1920 and after their marriage, they moved to Paris where Hemingway struggled with his writing and Hadley gave him the time and space he needed. Their marriage was by no means ideal and who knows if it would have fared any different if they remained in the United States, but this novel portrays Hadley for the most part as a woman standing by her man through thick and thin, despite the effects on her own aspirations and well-being. That is not to say she was a weak woman; despite her love and loyalty to Hemingway she did very well standing up to him.
Of course, as a francophile I also loved the descriptions of 1920s Paris, and the atmosphere of that era really came through. And the description of Hemingway’s writing process – especially the genesis of the novel The Sun Also Rises has made me want to read this book and see if my attitude toward his writing has changed.