Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Paperback, 214 pages
Published: 2011 by Ballantine Books
Audiobook by Random House Audio

The Paris Wife is beautifully written by Paula McLain from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. I felt like I was right there in the story, which took place in a very different time period nearly 90 years ago. Coincidentally, I read A Farewell to Arms at the same time for book club and now want to read The Sun Also Rises even more.

McLain writes in such a way that can make the reader feel like they're the main character, or perhaps is her best friend or reading her diary. She is a pro at character development as I felt like I knew Hadley and Ernest Hemingway intimately and felt for both of them as they toiled through life together and the later years.

Ernest and Hadley first meet in Chicago, in 1920, while Hadley is visiting a mutual friend of theirs. At the age of 28, she is 7 years older than Ernest, but that doesn't stop their courtship from happening quickly. After a whirlwind of a relationship, a quick wedding, and a move to Paris, Hadley struggles to adjust to life married to a struggling writer. She and Ernest, are according to Goodreads description, "ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy." McLane poignantly touches on how Hadley struggles to keep herself together and maintain her sense of self amidst Ernest's own struggles with writing what would eventually become The Sun Also Rises. Although they meet a group of writers that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, it seems as though Hadley doesn't feel that she fits in with them as she is not a writer herself. As he gives in to his impulses to keep up with the group, and presumably gives into the temptations of the "party scene"  that is the jazz scene of Paris, Hadley finds her role as his wife, muse, friend and mother of his child all the more challenging.

The couple ultimately comes to a crossroads facing the toughest decision of their marriage that neither of them thought to be possible. Not when it was so obvious how Ernest loved Hadley so much, and it broke my heart to know that he couldn't seem to keep showing her just how much he still loved her despite his drinking and inappropriate behavior. Goodreads says it best, "A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley."

I definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in period pieces, historical fiction, Ernest Hemingway, and/or romance.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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