Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Paris Wife

I take the T every morning to work, and those who have ever stepped foot on the green line know it can be a bit of a battle.  I only ride for six stops, making somewhat of a reverse commute, so its not too much of a hardship.  Really though, the way I make it even better is that I keep my kindle in my purse at all times.  Needless to say, getting lost in a book, even just for one chapter makes, the ride go by a lot easier.
Photo from Amazon...
I recently finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  This was a novel I had seen in bookshops (when they were around!) and online for awhile, but I had not really looked at it closely.  Finally, Amazon recommended it so many times based on my other interests I decided to take a closer look.  Turns out this was a novel (historical fiction) about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson and their time in Paris.  I must admit, I really have only read Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway and did not know much about him other than what Chris O'Donnell taught me in In Love and War.  What makes this book stand out, however, is Ernest Hemingway is only a supporting character, and the book is really about Hadley and written in her voice.

The book opens with a short chapter with Hadley, Hemingway and their child in Paris, but then quickly travels back to Chicago where Hadley and Ernest meet and really describes their fabulous courtship.  It really is no wonder they married, because he literally swept her off her feet in person, but also through hundreds of letters (naturally).  From Chicago, the couple traveled to Paris, where all the authors and intellectuals were gathering at the time.  Through their whirlwind romance Ernest was mentored by many authors we recognize as famous today and completely supported by Hadley.

What I found so striking about this book is through all of their time together and afterwards is how much Hadley supported and loved Hemingway.  She really made his dreams of becoming a writer her dreams as well.  During their marriage he was just getting started - The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway's first novel, was published just as their marriage was ending.  Numerous characters in the book are taken from people that the couple were friends with in Paris at the time.

Watching this couple come together and fall apart made for an interesting read.  I was fascinated by these characters, and mostly of Hadley.  The author did a great job of narrating the story in Hadley's voice and made the reader see how much stronger she became as her own person as her marriage to Ernest was ending.  They always say that behind a great man  is a great woman, and I really believe that Hadley was the reason that Ernest was able to write the literary classics he did.  Hemingway was a true tortured artist and for him to write the novels he did is a testament to the people who surrounded him.

This book provided an entertaining read.  While it his historical, you will not get bogged down by the non-fiction of it.  Rather, you become part of the Hemingway's social circle and more specifically a friend to Hadley as you read this.


  1. Great review. I've been seeing this book around too but never picked it up. I'm thinking of getting a Kindle too and I just read your Kindle review, and now I am about to order the Kindle Fire on Amazon :)

  2. I absolutely loved that book. Great review of it. We just read it for our Book Club and I couldnt put it down. It made go crazy researching so much more information about Hemmingway, his life and his wives.

  3. Running into you on the T makes my T ride so much better!! And this book has been on my "to read" list for a while now. I really should pick it up.

  4. You might be qualified for a free $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.


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