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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife

by Paula McLain

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,0953091,234 (3.7)314
  1. 80
    A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (alanteder, codehooligans)
  2. 20
    The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (kiwiflowa)
  3. 43
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (voracious)
    voracious: A female perspective of a similar time period with a romantic, optimistic point of view. Similar as it describes the joy of love and finding the perfect words.
  4. 10
    Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (shearon)
  5. 00
    Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood (Christy.Riege)
  6. 00
    Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (KayCliff)
  7. 00
    Alabama Song by Gilles Leroy (Cecilturtle)
  8. 00
    Hadley by Gioia Diliberto (alanteder)
  9. 00
    The Garden on Sunset (Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels Book 1) by Martin Turnbull (heatherlove)
    heatherlove: Set in the same era but Garden on Sunset is set in Hollywood instead of Paris, like The Paris Wife.
  10. 00
    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon by Robert Sklar (KayCliff)

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Showing 1-5 of 310 (next | show all)
Paula McLain’s novel, told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley, is a heartfelt love story with a very sad and tragic ending. You may ask, “Why read a novel when there are plenty of biographies and several memoirs written by the man himself?” One very good reason is that biographies often stick to the cold hard facts related by Hemingway, and anything Hemingway wrote will always be subjective and a somewhat biased rendition... especially when talking about an ex-wife and mother of one of his children.

"The Paris Wife" is solely based on true facts, mostly from Hadley’s perspective. McLain used a vast array of sources and is quoted saying, “ It was important for me to render the particulars of their lives as accurately as possible, and to follow the very well documented historical record.”

The opening scene occurs in 1920 at a social gathering where Hadley and Ernest first meet. Love at first sight? Not exactly. But they were strongly attracted to each other, and less than a year later, married while Ernest is still struggling as a novice author, trying to get something substantial down on paper. They immediately headed for Paris (the hot writer’s hub for up and coming authors) to begin Ernest’s writing career. The marriage lasted 5 years- enough time for Ernest to father a child, write his first very successful novel-The Sun Also Rises- and have an affair with another woman who eventually became wife number two.

Hemingway’s memoir titled "A Moveable Feast" is also about the Paris years. In comparison, it is light and gossipy with scant mention of his torrid love affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. Both books share lots of juicy tidbits of the Hemingway’s famous Paris acquaintances, friends, and sometimes enemies: John Dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, Jamey Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

They were all living in the fast lane- an unconventional bohemian lifestyle- trying to suck as much life out of their existence as was physically possible. And poor Hadley, 8 years older than Ernest, an unsophisticated old fashioned girl from Michigan, and in her own words, “If the women in Paris were peacocks, I was a garden variety hen.” But her love was solid and true and that’s what Ernest needed and counted on… at least until he was secure and successful enough to move on.

You may be thinking "The Paris Wife" is just going to be another one of those celebrity “starter marriage” sagas with little emotional consequence and even less historic relevance. But It’s always unfortunate when a marriage ends, and reading it from the abandoned wife’s point of view is sad and disheartening. Especially since they never really stopped loving each other. Ernest Hemingway never would find the perfectly compatible wife or true happiness. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Oct 10, 2017 |
More like 3.5 stars. I'm glad I recently read "A Moveable Feast" which was also about this time in Hemingway's life. A solid, fun read, although it certainly doesn't make me admire Hemingway or his writing any more than I did. ( )
  Abbey_Harlow | Oct 5, 2017 |
Devastatingly real, the truth of life's moments building together to create joys and heartbreak. How the young self struggles with feeling so absolutely right and righteous until moment by moment we keep learning; eventually changing as we all must do. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
Even those who find Ernest Hemingway an abusive alcoholic can appreciate how well this story is told. The book felt autobiographical and did a good job at representing the relationship of Hadley and "Papa" Hemingway early in his career. The events played out between the couple throughout the book, specifically their relationships with other couples, women and indulgence, and provides good insight into why their marriage was doomed from the beginning. Alternately entertaining and depressing, the author does a good job of walking the line between history and fiction, love and hate, shock and awe. Kristen Z. / Marathon County Public Library
Find this book in our library catalog. ( )
  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
Interesting character development about Hadley. ( )
  lisahistory | Sep 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 310 (next | show all)
Paula McLain has built “The Paris Wife” around Hadley. Or at least she has planted Hadley in the midst of a lot of famous, ambitious people. The advantage to this technique is that it allows the reader to rub shoulders and bend elbows with celebrated literary types: the stay-at-home way of feeling like the soigné figure on the book cover. The drawback is that Ms. McLain’s Hadley, when not in big-league company that overshadows her, isn’t a subtly drawn character. She’s thick, and not just in physique. She’s slow on the uptake, and she can be a stodgy bore.
Indeed, this book is a more risky affair than its sometimes sugary surface betrays. Taking up the Hemingway story inevitably means comparisons with Papa himself, and McLain courageously draws fire by including interludes written from his perspective: hard-bitten monologues with such lines as "You might as well bring yourself down and make yourself stinking sick with all you do because this is the only world there is." It's not exactly up there with John Cheever's classic parody, but it certainly does the job.

An appealing companion volume to A Moveable Feast, then, but once it's finished, turn back to the original, with its cool, impressionistic prose. It can hardly be said that the least interesting thing about Hemingway is the way he lived his life, but let's not forget that it's his writing that endures.
An imaginative, elegantly written look inside the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 15, 2011)
Colorful details of the expat life in Jazz Age Paris, combined with the evocative story of the Hemingways' romance, result in a compelling story that will undoubtedly establish McLain as a writer of substance. Highly recommended for all readers of popular fiction.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Susanne Wells (Nov 15, 2010)
The Paris Wife, McLain has taken their love story, partially told by Hemingway himself in A Moveable Feast, and fashioned a novel that's impossible to resist. It's all here, and it all feels real...
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It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important. -Gertrude Stein
There's no one thing that's true. It's all true. -Ernest Hemingway
First words
Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.
He wanted everything there was to have, and more than that.
We had the best of each other.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
History is sadly neglectful of the supporting players in the lives of great artists. Fortunately, fiction provides ample opportunity to bring these often fascinating personalities out into the limelight. Gaynor Arnold successfully resurrected the much-maligned Mrs. Charles Dickens in Girl in a Blue Dress (2009), now Paula McLain brings Hadley Richardson Hemingway out from the formidable shadow cast by her famous husband. Though doomed, the Hemingway marriage had its giddy high points, including a whirlwind courtship and a few fast and furious years of the expatriate lifestyle in 1920s Paris. Hadley and Ernest traveled in heady company during this gin-soaked and jazz-infused time, and readers are treated to intimate glimpses of many of the literary giants of the era, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But the real star of the story is Hadley, as this time around, Ernest is firmly relegated to the background as he almost never was during their years together. Though eventually a woman scorned, Hadley is able to acknowledge without rancor or bitterness that "Hem" had "helped me to see what I really was and what I could do." Much more than a "woman-behind-the-man" homage, this beautifully crafted tale is an unsentimental tribute to a woman who acted with grace and strength as her marriage crumbled. amazon com
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345521307, Hardcover)

Author Paula McLain on The Paris Wife
Most of us know or think we know who Ernest Hemingway was -- a brilliant writer full of macho swagger, driven to take on huge feats of bravery and a pitcher or two of martinis -- before lunch. But beneath this man or myth, or some combination of the two, is another Hemingway, one we’ve never seen before. Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, is the perfect person to reveal him to us -- and also to immerse us in the incredibly exciting and volatile world of Jazz-age Paris.

The idea to write in Hadley’s voice came to me as I was reading Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, about his early years in Paris. In the final pages, he writes of Hadley, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” That line, and his portrayal of their marriage -- so tender and poignant and steeped in regret -- inspired me to search out biographies of Hadley, and then to research their brief and intense courtship and letters -- they wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of delicious pages to another!

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Hadley, and through her eyes, with the young Ernest Hemingway. He was just twenty when they met, handsome and magnetic, passionate and sensitive and full of dreams. I was surprised at how much I liked and admired him -- and before I knew it, I was entirely swept away by their gripping love story.

I hope you will be as captivated by this remarkable couple as I am -- and by the fascinating world of Paris in the 20’s, the fast-living, ardent and tremendously driven Lost Generation.

A Look Inside The Paris Wife

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway, Chamby, Switzerland, winter 1922
Ernest and Hadley Hemingway on their wedding day, 1921
Ernest, Hadley, and Bumby, Schruns, Austria, 1925

The Hemingways and friends at a cafe in Pamplona, Spain
Guest Reviewer: Helen Simonson on The Paris Wife

Helen Simonson is the New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. She was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics and former travel advertising executive, she has lived in America for the past two decades. After many years in Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area.

Paula McLain has taken on the task of writing a story most of us probably think we already know--that of a doomed starter wife. To make life more difficult, McLain proposes to tell us about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, who is a twenty-eight-year-old Midwestern spinster when she marries the twenty-one-year-old unpublished, (but already cocksure) writer and runs off to Paris with him. The talent and joy of this novel is that McLain does a startling job of making us understand this as a great love story and seducing us into caring deeply, about both Ernest and Hadley, as their marriage eventually comes apart.

This novel moves beyond the dry bones of biography or skewed personal vision of memoir, and takes a leap into the emotional lives of these characters. It is a leap of faith for those readers who think they know Hemingway, but McLain’s voice sticks close enough to historical material, and to the words and tone of Hemingway’s own writing, to be convincing. She had me at the description of young Hadley’s father committing suicide.

“The carpets had been cleaned but not changed out for new, the revolver had been emptied and polished and placed back in his desk.”

Hadley is also crippled by a childhood fall and trapped into spinsterhood by her mother’s declining health and eventual death. By the time she meets Hemingway, we are rooting for her to make a break for foreign shores--even as we understand the danger of marrying a tempestuous man. Hemingway is all nervous purpose, ambition and charisma as he meets Hadley and is drawn to her quiet strength and ordinary American sweetness. In his youth and uncertainty, she is his rock and yet we already suspect that as he grows in artistic power, she will become an unwanted anchor. Through Hadley’s eyes and plain-speaking voice, we see all of twenties Paris and the larger-than-life artists who gather in the cafes. We drink tea with Gertrude Stein and champagne with Fitzgerald and Zelda. We run with the bulls in Pamplona and spend winters in alpine chalets. And we see, through her love for him, the young writer becoming the Hemingway of legend. Perhaps it is the nature of all great artists to be completely selfish and obnoxious, but Hadley’s voice is always one of compassion. Even as Hemingway leaves her completely out of The Sun also Rises, even as Hemingway publicly flirts with other women, she continues to explain and defend him. It is a testament to Paula McLain that the reader is slow to dislike Hemingway, even as he slowly and inexorably betrays Hadley’s trust.

I loved this novel for its depiction of two passionate, yet humanly-flawed people struggling against impossible odds--poverty, artistic fervor, destructive friendships--to cling on to each other. I raise a toast to Paula McLain’s sure talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Meeting through mutual friends in Chicago, Hadley is intrigued by brash "beautiful boy" Ernest Hemingway, and after a brief courtship and small wedding, they take off for Paris, where Hadley makes a convincing transformation from an overprotected child to a game and brave young woman who puts up with impoverished living conditions and shattering loneliness to prop up her husband's career.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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