Friday, 11 January 2013

Thoughts: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I had this book for a while now but with my slow reading lately I never felt attracted enough to pick this book up. But it surprised me. Because what could be more fascinating than the bohemian life in the 1920s Paris or the early life of one of the best known American writers through the eyes of his first wife? Not much, for me anyway.
The writing was just brilliant. I felt with Hadley, I suffered with Hadley, I hurt with Hadley. I came to love the character Hadley. I know that McLain fictionalized Hadley Richardson's thoughts and feelings and as a consequence that the expressed thoughts and feelings might not have been really hers. But I don't care because I cared about Hadley only the more for it.
*Spoiler Warning*
For example when she felt miserable about losing the bag with Ernest's complete early work. Or when she must have been so miserable when he got together with Pauline. If the book was only an accurate description of the Hemingway's marriage but not for the emotion McLain added to the story it would not have been such a great reading experience. You get my point.
*Spoiler End*
Also the character of Earnest felt very real. It seems to me that being in a relationship with him might not have been easy. That he might have demanded more than given back.
And though I finished this book days ago I still find myself thinking about it, which of course only happens to me when a book made an impression and gave me something to think about. I'm glad that I finally picked it up due to Anita's recommendation.
Accompanying reads:
A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway - Earnest's account on their marriage and his years as young and aspiring writer. +added to tbr
Like Family by Paula McLain - Memoir about her living in care of foster parents with her two sisters +added to tbr


  1. This book mostly confirmed for me what I'd thought all along: Hemingway was a class-A jerk. I didn't love the book but I enjoyed the part set in Paris. That's one reason why A Moveable Feast is the only Hemingway book I really like.

  2. Agree with As the Crowe Flies and Reads. A Movable Feast was the only Hemingway book I liked and even there I liked the bits about Fitzgerald the best. I had intended to follow up A Movable Feast with The Paris Wife but never got around to it. I'm usually a little wary of 'pretend biographies' but I'm curious about this one so its going on my TBR list.

  3. Well, at least McLain did not only use her imagination. If she didn't use Gioia Dilberto's 1983 book Hadley (now called Paris Without End) as a resource, then she had access to the same source material - they use many of the same descriptions and some similar phrasing. Here's Dilberto talking about listening to Hadley's taped reminiscences:

  4. I own this book and plan to read it very soon. Glad you enjoyed it so much :)

  5. Ever since I read this I've wondered about how different his life would have turned out if they had stayed together. Interesting thoughts :)