Hi all– Just finished reading Paula McLain’s, The Paris Wife, a novel as told by Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway in the 1920’s. At the end of his book, A Moveable Feast, written later in his life, Hemingway writes, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.” In this new version, Hadley details her faithful devotion to a talented, egocentric genius. Theirs was a charmed, if battered, marriage.
Soon after they are wed, the couple moves to Paris and makes the acquaintance of such luminaries as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound. They socialize with this carousing, amoral crowd of expatriates, but live humbly themselves, Hemingway, not yet famous, passing his days writing in an unheated rented room. They have a son and travel with friends, skiing in Austria, to the bullfights in Spain. Hadley remains the faithful wife, supporting Hemingway’s tender ego, overlooking his failures as a husband and a human being. All revolved around “his work.”
But eventually the marriage falls apart. Hadley cannot compete with the savvy, edgy world around them. Through the book, I was hoping for an ending I knew couldn’t wouldn’t happen. Hemingway’s first notable book, The Sun Also Rises, is published just as they are divorcing and he dedicates it to Hadley and their son, Bumby.
It’s a sign of a worthwhile book, that I as I finished reading, I raced to google “Hadley Richardson” to find the rest of her story. And pulled A Moveable Feast off my shelf for a “re-read” to compare Hemingway’s account with this fictionalized version. The Paris Wife opens the door to a fascinating place and time and an intimate picture of a complex man. I think you might like it.
4 thoughts on “The Paris Wife”
I have considered reading it but wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it or not. Thank you for the review, I may now have to give it a try.
Hi Danielle! I really enjoyed it. Kind of the little more real version of the movie– “Midnight in Paris.”
I really liked that book too! I had somehow managed to get through high school without ever reading anything by Hemingway and The Paris Wife made me buy A Moveable Feast, which I also loved.
Hi Lisa– rereading Movable Feast now. You can see how the author reworked passages into The Paris Wife. And makes me wish I was off to Paris this summer. I’m going to the library for The Sun Also Rises next. Be fun to see how the characters match the ones we’ve already read about from their travels in the 20’s. Plus we lived in Spain for 12 years a while back and I’d love to read his work in that context. Glad to hear from you!