Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Paula McLain’s novel, The Paris Wife, is the minimally fictionalized story of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Richardson, his first of four wives. If you’ve read it you know Hadley Richardson Hemingway was a rather boring gal, and Hemingway was the cliché of a tortured artistic soul. You also know that the setting for most of the book, Paris in the 1920s, doesn’t get much more interesting, especially when you’re hanging out with the likes of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Woody Allen’s 2012 Oscar nominated Midnight in Paris is an entertaining glimpse into that era as well.

Despite her lackluster persona in the book, Hadley Richardson does have an interesting backstory riddled with tragedy. Her father committed suicide, her sister  died of burns sustained in a house fire, and Hadley spent her 20s caring for her ailing mother.
Out of the blue appears handsome,  and nine-years-younger Hemingway who sweeps a borderline homely Hadley off her feet. Although Hemingway swears to his adoration of Hadley, I couldn't help but imagine that he was more attracted to her trust fund than her charms. Hemingway's biographer Jeffrey Meyers apparently agrees, as he said, "With Hadley, Hemingway achieved everything he had hoped for ... a comfortable income, a life in Europe." CLICK ON READ MORE BELOW...

What ensues in Paris is a life of literati backscratching, an almost unbelievable amount of nightly drinking, Hemingway’s artistic temper tantrums and serial flirting, and Hadley’s wimpy resignation. Then along comes the ever-so-chic Pauline Pfeiffer (pictured left), a writer for French Vogue, who strangely makes Hemingway her lover and Hadley her best friend.  Hadley’s life which now includes a baby marks yet another tragedy. On the “up” side, she does get the royalties of The Sun Also Rises as a part of the divorce settlement.

Although McLain’s writing in The Paris Wife isn’t transcendent, it was transporting. McLain took me to Paris, Barcelona, Pamplona, Schruns and Geneva, and did a pretty good job of showcasing the color and drama of those romantic places. I think perhaps I fell more in love with the idea of the book than the actual book, but all in all I enjoyed it and think you might also.

Below is a video by a fun and funny East Texas book club, featuring their discussion with author Paula McLain about The Paris Wife.

1 comment:

  1. Oh am very excited- especially as I think I have seen a copy in my local bookshop in Istanbul and therefore won't have to read on the kindle :)