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The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
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The Paris Wife: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Paula McLain

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3,0252521,880 (3.71)246
Member:ReadHanded
Title:The Paris Wife: A Novel
Authors:Paula McLain
Info:Ballantine Books (2011), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, Ernest Hemingway, Paris, France, marriage

Work details

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

  1. 80
    A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (alanteder, codehooligans)
  2. 42
    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.
  3. 00
    Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (KayCliff)
  4. 00
    Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (shearon)
  5. 00
    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon by Robert Sklar (KayCliff)
  6. 00
    The Garden on Sunset 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.
  7. 00
    Hadley by Gioia Diliberto (alanteder)
  8. 00
    Alabama Song by Gilles Leroy (Cecilturtle)
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After meeting and marrying in Chicago, Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway move to Paris which was the place to be in the 1920s. While the couple meets many big names of Jazz Age Paris, the story focuses on Hadley. Hadley matures from a sheltered, overprotected young girl to a strong woman as she copes with squalid living conditions, Ernest’s drinking and philandering, and heartbreaking loneliness.
  ktoonen | Dec 13, 2014 |
I had a hard time keeping interest in this book, the first half I felt was a bit boring and paid too much attention to mundane details that did nothing for the story. It only "picked up" when Duff and especially Pauline came into the picture but only because I was infuriated and yelling at the book calling Hadley a moron, and Pauline and Earnest some other choice words. Seriously what was with Hadley? I reacted more to her husband's infidelity than she did, I couldn't even sympathize for her, all she did was sit there and cry and feel sorry for herself and just let her husband and supposed best friend fool around right in front of her, or I should say right next to her. I wanted so badly for her to yell, punch Pauline in the face, give Earnest a good kick in the balls, SOMETHING or at least say something and put her foot down. I almost couldn't finish it, it made me so angry. ( )
  reigningstars | Dec 4, 2014 |
Forget everything you know about Ernest Hemingway because Paula McLain has set out to change that in The Paris Wife. This stunning novel follows a fictionalised account of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson. McLain’s version of Hemingway starts off as a tender man, with a crush on an older woman; he is persistent and full of love; nothing like what I know of the man.

The Paris Wife begins in the Chicago in 1920; it is here we meet Hadley and Ernest. Slowly we watch the two fell in love and get married. Soon after they have relocated to Paris where they meet other expatriate authors, such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The love shared between Hadley and Ernest is nothing short of beautiful, while it lasted.

If you know much about Ernest Hemingway, you know this whirlwind romance wasn’t going to last, I’m not spoiling anything by mentioning this. In fact it is mentioned on the back of the book. What I found most interesting about The Paris Wife is the way it is written in a first person perspective. My calculations from the clues in the book, is that Hadley was narrating this account at least thirty-four years after her divorce from Hemingway.

This presents a unique perspective of Ernest Hemingway, the pain and suffering would have been mostly gone and we get a distorted opinion of this famous author. Paula McLain’s masterfully presented Hemingway in such a way that I began to re-evaluate my personal opinion of the man. He was depicted as loving and caring, a struggling author with big dreams but also suffering from the torments of war. This eventually all came crashing down and my opinions where back to how I originally felt about this author; it takes some talent to be able to pull that kind of writing off.

This is the kind of novel you take to Paris. The atmosphere of 1920’s Paris was stunning, I could picture it and I wanted to go back to France and enjoy this city all over again. Unfortunately I don’t live in the world of Midnight in Paris, so I will have to stick with the modern city. Mentions of Shakespeare and Company were particularly special for me as I have very fond memoirs of that wonderful bookstore.

Fictionalised accounts are tricky and should always be taken with a giant grain of salt but I was happy to see Ms McLain ended this book with a note about her research including sources for her research. While this doesn’t mean I’m going to take the entire story as true, it does provide me with some reassurances that the author intended to keep as close to the facts as possible. This meant that at times the novel did feel more like a biography but the story was compelling enough to keep the book enjoyable.

One thing that bothered me after reading some reviews about this book is the people who hated this book because of the ‘unlikeable character’ when referring to Hemingway. I’ve always thought of the author as an unlikeable person (the man was a dick). What I was impressed with is the fact that Paula McLain managed to alter my opinion and try to look at things from another perspective. He was self-destructive and often came across as a man with no remorse but seeing his downward spiral on the page is what made this journey interesting.

I read this book for Jazz Age January; it was a good excuse to pick up The Paris Wife. I did in fact enjoy the novel but not in the sense that I would recommend it, I just think it was an interesting journey and look at Ernest Hemingway. There were flaws in the novel but you have to respect the way McLean worked the reader. I knew the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway had a falling out but now I suspect it was a case of them siding with Hadley during the break up. I will have to research some more to know for sure.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/01/23/the-paris-wife-by-paula-mclain/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 3, 2014 |
Ernest Hemingway, today, seems an acquired taste, one I acquired in college and have neglected ever since. But his wife – Paris wife, first wife – was most certainly an unknown ot me, so it was intriguing to see her brought to life in Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. Other famous characters weave in and out the tale – with much weaving due to much consumption of alcohol. And famous events – prohibition, war and more – form a powerful backdrop. But, for me, the most powerful part of the backdrop was the casual name-dropping of even more well-known names from a previous era – not so long-gone after all. Somehow meeting characters who met characters who knew the poets of old made this story all the more absorbing.

The depiction of Europe between the wars, of excess and folly, and a land just opening itself to tourism’s deception, makes an ideal backdrop to a tale where war’s folly and alcohol’s excess will destroy the perfection of true love. Despite their drunkenness and repeated quarrels, the characters remain accessible and believable. And even quiet Hadley has a power of her own, not so retreating as she seems, nor so simperingly weak. There’s a strength in her decisions that grows from the beginning of the novel to its end, and the tragedy of her broken marriage will mirror the tragedies of treaties soon to be broken in a war-wounded world.

The story’s slow at times, but occasional glimpses into Hemingway’s thoughts, the weaving of well-known characters with strangers, and the convincing depiction of Hadley’s gradual growth makes it a powerful, fascinating tale, to be savored and enjoyed.

Disclosure: A kind friend loaned me her copy. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Nov 2, 2014 |
A review on another site describes the book as “a love affair between two unforgettable people”. It’s also a love affair with an unforgettable place and time – Paris in the 1920’s – a literary golden age. War may have been responsible for a lost generation, but among the survivors it also stimulated a burgeoning of new life, creativity, revived appetites and a burning desire to grab it all while it was hot. It’s against this vibrant backdrop that the reader is introduced to a Hemingway vastly different from the celebrated persona of later years. Here we meet the young, impressionable budding novelist, grappling with fears, uncertainties and insecurities that ultimately, despite his success and cultivated braggadocio, overwhelmed him.

It is of course primarily the story of Hadley, his first wife. If all you knew of her was the more or less anonymous “my wife" of Hemingway’s "A Moveable Feast”, you'd see her as pretty much of an enigma, little more than a complementary, submissive counterpoint to the main event – the artist. In Paula McLain’s rendering of her, we get inside her skin, often to an uncomfortable degree. The betrayed wife is never a nice place to be. It’s even worse when she learns the truth but condones the betrayal, not because she forgives the straying husband, but because she can’t seem to think of anything else to do. Perhaps it was the age, after all women were only just coming into their own and those who had the resources to be independent were in the minority. But still, the wait while she grew a backbone was agonisingly slow.

Ernest’s character goes through a considerable transformation, from gorgeous young ingénue, seemingly oblivious to the raft of women falling at his feet, to selfish, self-important and insensitive cad. You can more or less forgive him all this because he became a great author and in the end, incapable of forgiving himself perhaps, committed suicide.

Despite my frustrations with the fictional Hadley’s gymnastic feats of accommodating her husband’s various exploitations of her good nature, I loved this story. It’s Romantic with a capital "R" and regardless of the giant and unavoidable spoiler of real life, kept me in there desperate to read the next chapter. Historical fiction is (for me at least) peculiarly engrossing, maybe because I feel like I’m being given a glimpse behind the public façade, even while knowing it’s a contrived one to a greater or lesser extent.

As Hemingway himself said in "A Moveable Feast", “…there is always the chance that … a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact”. This one shines the light very brightly on a mythical time when everyone seemed to be just slightly fantastical and utterly absorbing. ( )
  Anne_Green | Oct 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
First words
Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.
Quotations
He wanted everything there was to have, and more than that.
We had the best of each other.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:32 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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