Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I was intrigued by this book, telling the story of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, but, while I have liked the three Hemingway books I have read very much, I don't like him as a person at all. Luckily, it was assigned by book club so I didn't have to decide to read it. Luckily, because I really did enjoy it!

Hadley and Ernest met at a party in Chicago when Hadley was in town from St. Louis visiting friends. Hadley was a 28-year-old spinster and Ernest was a 20-year-old back from WWI. It's the roaring twenties and Prohibition has just started. After a brief, whirlwind romance, they marry, and depart for Paris. In Paris they meet a ton of famous people (if this wasn't based on true facts, it would be unrealistic in the volume of famous associates) from Ezra Pound to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Gertrude Stein. They drink a ton, Ernest is nasty to Hadley, they have a son, things go downhill and eventually implode. He writes In Our Time and The Sun Also Rises (two of his books that I have read).

Hadley is a doormat, but she does it conscientiously, after having seen both her mother and Ernest's mother emasculate their husbands. And also Ernest really needed a lot of support (A LOT) and Hadley was great at providing that no matter what. It seemed when he started to gain success and was getting positive reinforcement from a lot of sources, he didn't need her anymore and that's when the relationship started to fail.

I truly felt like I was in the twenties in Paris. Ms. McLain obviously did her research and it shows in a good way, with the feel and atmosphere. There were a few minor bits of language that seemed anachronistic, but they didn't bother me. I know the Hemingways and their whole crowd were big on nicknames but I could have stood for a little less accuracy there as the nicknames were voluminous and got very confusing. Particularly when Ernest and Hadley used the same nickname for each other (more than one!)

For me the book was a fast read, I really liked Hadley (not everyone in my book club did though because of the doormat factor), I liked learning about the ex-pat writers, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It did not make me like Hemingway more, but the fact that I didn't like him didn't hurt the book for me at all.

I got this book at the Friends of the Library book sale.


Jeanna said...

Good review! I was thinking about reading this for a while now, but now that I've read your review, it just doesn't like something for me. Thank you so much! Happy reading!


Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Loved this book! Went on a Hadley binge after reading it.

tediousandbrief said...

Great review. I've never read anything by Hemingway, but keep seeing this book's cover everywhere for a while now. I'm going to definitely read it when I get some time, since how you say the author describes the 1920s is alone enough for me to place this on a to-read list.