Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain

Two sad endings in a row!  I need to pick up something cheery next, don't you agree?

The Paris Wife is a fictionalized portrait of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage, told through the eyes of his wife, Hadley Richardson.  From the first couple of pages, I was entranced.  This book hit a lot of sweet spots for me -- an unlikely romance with a significant age difference (Hadley was 8 years older than Ernest), Ernest Hemingway, details about someone's everyday life, etc.  Much of the book takes place in Paris during the time period that Hemingway himself described in his memoir A Moveable Feast, my favorite of his books.  But instead of a side character like she is in that book, Hadley is front and center here, talking about what it's like to be married to a soon-to-be-famous writer.  The pair interact with other members of the Lost Generation, like Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, drink copious amounts of alcohol, and try to make sense of life.

The book follows their relationship chronologically, from the time they met in Chicago shortly after WWI through their divorce after five years of marriage.  I knew, of course, that Hemingway was married four times, and that this book would not end well.  That didn't make their disintegrating marriage any easier to watch, though.

Particularly Good Bits:  But the war had come and stolen all the fine young men and our faith, too.  There was only today to throw yourself into without thinking about tomorrow, let alone forever (pg xi).

In Paris, everyone was so drastic and dramatic, flinging themselves into ditches for each other (pg 212).

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  R for suggestive dialog, semi-explicit love scenes, alcohol use, and strong language.

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