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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife (edition 2011)

by Paula McLain

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3,6112881,459 (3.71)293
Title:The Paris Wife
Authors:Paula McLain
Info:Bond Street Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, Hardcover, 336 pages
Tags:Fictionalized version of Hemingway's first wife...how they met and the whirlwind life they led mostly in Europe. Interesting, but Hemingway comes across as chldish and needy...which is probably how he really was.

Work details

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

  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
    Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (KayCliff)
  6. 00
    Alabama Song by Gilles Leroy (Cecilturtle)
  7. 00
    Hadley by Gioia Diliberto (alanteder)
  8. 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.
  9. 00
    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon by Robert Sklar (KayCliff)

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Showing 1-5 of 288 (next | show all)
The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
3 stars

The book is well written. I’m sure it was as historically accurate as it could be. I found some parts of it interesting, but I found it difficult to enjoy. I rather expected that would be the case. Although I appreciate his genius, I’m not a Hemingway fan. Foreknowledge of this marriage cast a pall over the book even before I started it.

It surprised me that I was disturbed most by the use of first person narrative in Hadley’s voice. I’ve certainly enjoyed other historical fiction written as autobiography. In this case, it felt intrusive. This woman died in 1979. She has living relatives. Ernest Hemingway wrote about their years in Paris. Hadley could certainly have published her own account had she wanted to make a public statement. She didn’t. In her second marriage, she was a private person. I wasn’t comfortable with Paula McLain putting words into her mouth. It’s a personal reservation and has nothing to do with the skill of this author.

McLain does a good job of voicing the enormous difficulties in this relationship. Hadley devoted all of her energy, all of herself to the support of Ernest’s genius and his extreme narcissism. I wanted to shake her and tell her he wasn’t worth it. But, I suspect that she always believed that he and his great talent were worth whatever she sacrificed.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
2011, Random House, Read by Carrington McDuffie

Book Description: Amazon.ca
The Paris Wife tells Hemingway’s story from a unique point of view – that of his first wife, Hadley. Through her eyes and voice, we experience Paris of the Lost Generation and meet fascinating characters such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. The city and its inhabitants provide a vivid backdrop to this engrossing and wrenching story of love and betrayal that is made all the more poignant knowing that, in the end, Hemingway would write of his first wife, "I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her."

What I Liked:
The characters, the time period, the French Riviera! It was fascinating to have a first-hand look at such eccentric characters as F. Scott Fitzgerald – perhaps an even a more accomplished drunk than he was a writer. And his wife, Zelda, who was even crazier! The generous hospitality and the parties of Gerald and Sara Murphy were a wonder: the luxury and the excess. What a social circle! Too, I enjoyed an inside look at Hemingway’s writing process: his inspiration, the way ideas came to him, and his manner of writing. The Roaring Twenties I’ve always found fascinating: the social change, the rise of affluence, the beginnings of consumerism.

Carrington McDuffie is not a narrator whose work I am familiar with, but she does a wonderful job in The Paris Wife

What I Didn’t Like:
The answer here is also the characters! I found Hemingway’s selfishness, dishonesty, and cheating ways despicable. And I wanted to slap Hadley (repeatedly) for her doormat acquiescence.

Recommended: Yes, not widely, but certainly to those interested in reading about Hemingway and his contemporaries, in The Roaring Twenties, and in the Paris of the Lost Generation. ( )
3 vote lit_chick | May 21, 2016 |
If you want a juicy insider look at the Lost Generation in 1920s Paris, then this is the book for you. If you want a riveting story full of deep, three-dimensional characters….. perhaps you should look elsewhere. This is not a fiction book which could stand alone on its own merits, it is only interesting because he became a famous writer. I think much of the problem connecting with the characters comes from the first person narration of Hadley. I found it very hard to relate to her trust fund lifestyle. ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
This is fiction but if Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, had written a book about her life with him it probably would have been a lot like this. I have never read any of Ernest Hemingway's novels and now I am wondering if I ever want to. Hemingway acted like an overgrown adolescent in his relations with women, in his addiction to liquor and in his admiration of blood sports. That doesn't sound like the hallmark of a great writer.

Hadley Richardson lead a sheltered life in St. Louis until her mother died. She was 29 years old when she went to visit an old friend in Chicago and met Ernest Hemingway. Ernest was 21 but he became immediately infatuated with Hadley. Less than a year after meeting they were married and soon after moved to Paris. There they became friends with many writers such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford and John Dos Passos. Hemingway was writing for the Toronto Star but also working on his own stories. While travelling by train to meet Hemingway in Geneva Hadley lost a suitcase containing all of the manuscripts Hemingway had written. Soon after Hadley became pregnant although Hemingway did not want to have children. They moved to Toronto so Hadley could have good care for the birth but soon after they returned to Paris. Although they claimed to be poor Hadley and Ernest took long vacations to such places as Pamplona to see the bullfights and Austria to ski. On some of these vacations Pauline Pfeiffer accompanied them and soon Pauline and Ernest were having an affair. Five years after getting married Hadley and Ernest divorced and Ernest married Pauline. As poorly as she had been treated by Ernest Hadley still thought he was a great writer and that she would always love him.

This book is written very convincingly and the audiobook was very well narrated by Carrington MacDuffie. I guess my main problem is that Hadley did not rage more at how she was treated. However, I gather that Hadley continued all her life to credit Hemingway with giving her experiences that she could never have had without him. ( )
  gypsysmom | Apr 27, 2016 |
This was a great in-depth look at Ernest Hemingway and how he soared to literary success, and I loved being able to see it all from the perspective of his first wife. While her character seems weak now in such a modern female-empowered society, my heart broke for her each time she let Ernest walk all over her. The prose was slow at times, but all in all I just found myself invested in Hadley's character, her life, and her happiness. ( )
  CInacio | Mar 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 288 (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.)
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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 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)

(summary from another edition)

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