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Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: February 27, 2011

What's the Story?:

From "Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for."

My Two Cents:

"The Paris Wife" is one of those books that I can't believe it took me as long as it did to get around to reading it. After reading Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" a couple years ago, I fell in love with Hemingway's Paris and by extension Hemingway's Hadley. Sidebar: I fell in love with the name Hadley so much so that one of my daughters is named Hadley. I wanted to read "The Paris Wife" right after I read "A Moveable Feast," however, I never got around to it until now. I can see why so many people enjoyed this book!

Now, I feel like I might be the only historical fiction lover left that hadn't read this book. This book did enormously well a couple years ago and is still very popular to discuss. McLain pulls us in to Hadley Richardson's life and makes her feel like an intimate friend. She is utterly engaging and interesting. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway's first wife and we can see how hopeful their relationship is in the beginning. Hadley was by Hemingway's side as he is a struggling writer trying to get published. At first, their marriage seems very happy and very much them-against-the-world and I loved reading about their relationship. Through Hadley's eyes, we see the marriage begin to dissolve. The story covers their courtship and marriage and their subsequent separation. I really wish that would have covered more as Hadley has a very authentic and interesting voice in this book. We only get a glimpse of her later years.

I really like that the book is told from the perspective of Hadley herself. I thought that the first person point of view really added a lot to the story arc as it allowed me to put myself in her shoes and see the things that she was seeing. I really enjoyed this book!



  1. For me, this was a compelling read drawing me into a world which was fascinating.

  2. This is one of the books I missed. Will put it on my list!

    1. I can't believe it took so long for me to get around to reading it!

  3. aren't the ONLY one! I've had this one on my list forEVER it seems. And I'm not sure when I will actually read it. I don't know why I've been waiting. Everyone who has read it loves it!

  4. I read this, too. And I cannot agree with You. Hadley was nothing but a sap throughout this book, and it disgusted me. I could not sympathize with her because she was an intelligent woman. Hemingway had no business lounging around in Paris with his rich friends; he had no money, himself, but he did it entirely with Hadley's trust fund.

    But Hadley had assured Ernest before they were married that she’d never stand in the way of his writing career. She told him that she would only be his partner and encourage it. So she didn’t usually complain but went along with everything. That even included threesomes for a time. No kidding. Hadley was miserable but but kept putting up with it in even going along with it.

    McLain says that this book of fiction is mostly fact. That makes THE PARIS WIFE interesting. Still, I couldn’t take it in large doses because of my disgust with Ernest and the rest of those expatriate writers in Paris and also with Hadley. While I could understand how a wife could be a sap for her husband, I couldn’t sympathize with her plight when she was putting up with threesomes every day, even in her bed.

    1. I see where you're coming from. I think a lot of the things that she put up with came from the time in which she was living in (much like what Faith says below). It definitely wasn't fair to Hadley but I could imagine how you could get tied up in staying in a marriage like that!

  5. I enjoyed this one. It's a fascinating look at a by-gone era. It made me want to go back and reread some Hemingway. I understand techeditor's disappointment, but looked at it differently. Hadley was surrounded by talented, accomplished women and I wanted her to do more to develop her own potential beyond a single piano concert. But we have to remember this is history. It took tremendous energy and a special personality (for women or men) to buck the system. The vast majority of women couldn't even conceive of trying, much less succeed. The fact that Hadley failed, doesn't make her a sap, it makes her a woman of her time.

    1. I definitely agree with you on the time in which Hadley was living having a great effect on how her life turned out!


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