Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher: Ballantine
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy

Hadley Richardson was smitten with Ernest Hemmingway from the moment she met him, less than one year later she married him, ignoring the skeptics and following her heart. Hadley had almost given up on love but Ernest renewed her spirit and made her feel good about herself. She believed in Hemmingway wholeheartedly and wanted to sacrifice alongside of him to further his career, his career became her career. The Hemingway’s set sail for Paris and hoped that their dreams would come true. Living on a small inheritance, Ernest continued reporting for certain newspapers but wanted to devote the majority of his time to his own writing. Ernest and Hadley soon found themselves befriending and mingling with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When Hadley gave birth to their son, she was soon left out and became lonely. Having a child was not very fashionable, and the few friends Hadley did have, had been constantly scrutinized by Hemmingway. Hemingway reinvented himself, and unfortunately for Hadley she no longer fit his criteria. Hemingway lived and breathed writing, and his love for Hadley only lasted for 5 short years, she was soon replaced by her best friend.

The Paris Wife is an incredible fictionalized account of the relationship between Ernest and Hadley. As a reader, I felt like Hadley was sitting next to me pouring her heart out. Their love was so strong, so pure and it soured so fast. Readers really get a glimpse into the lost generation, and how close knit their literary circle was. McLain has done her research and stayed true to the facts. Hadley was warned to stay away from Hemingway but she was attracted to him immediately. He was exciting, romantic, and full of optimism. He was recovering from his time spent at war, and ready to throw caution aside and pursue his career. Hadley was able to nurture, encourage and stabilize Hemingway. At that time, they needed each other.

Hadley was trying to be a traditional wife, but the bohemian lifestyle of the roaring 20’s left little room for the traditional. She felt like she never belonged to the group, never the artist but always the supporter of Ernest. Hadley’s friends were typical flappers who would try to steer her into a different fashionable lifestyle, Hemmingway would not allow it. He was a proud man who never accepted any handouts. Hadley seemed to be trying to gain her own identity as a mother and friend and she ultimately was left behind.

Overall, this book is well researched, and well orchestrated. Paula McLain’s firsthand account of their marriage has an authentic feel. The voice of Hadley is so strong, and unforgettable. I was immediately drawn into their world and fascinated by their lifestyle and struggles. At the end of the story, I felt so emotional. Hemmingway lived a fast life, and did as he pleased, Hadley let him. She was the dutiful wife, until she finally had enough and he went too far. I highly recommend this one; I didn’t expect to connect with Hadley as much as I did and I was pleasantly surprised. A great read!


  1. I agree, her voice is strong. At the end I was upset with both of them. Him for obvious reasons and her for staying in the marriage so long. I'm glad she got out!

  2. Thi sounds really good. I didn't realize how short their relationship was. I hadn't paid much attention to this but I think I'll pick it up one of these days! This book was in an answer on jeopardy the other day.. The question was who is Ernest Hemingway which I knew.. I love when they have questions about books, LOL

  3. I really want to read this book. That time period in Paris just fascinates me.

  4. I have always been interested in Hemingway and I would love to read this book about him and Hadley. Sounds like an emotional read, thanks for the great review!

  5. Great review! I really felt invested in Hadley and it hurt me to see her hurting. I was sad to say goodbye when the novel came to an end.

    Have you read The Rules of Civility? If not, I highly recommend it! It also takes place in the late 20's early 30's. The main character is just as lovely as Hadley and I really connected to her as well :)

    1. I haven't read The Rules of Civility yet, but I've heard that it is great. I have it on my wishlist.

  6. This is an interesting concept which probably reflects the truth in some way. Poor Hadley though. I always feel bad for those women that give so much of themselves only to be replaced by the next best thing. Great review.

  7. You have made this seem like a very intriguing read, and I think it's one that I want to get to soon. I haven't read much Hemingway, but think that the story here is so inclusive that it won't be affected by my unfamiliarity with his work. Great review today! I will have to let you know what I think!

  8. Great review. I wasn't initially sure that this novel was one for me, but your review has me reconsidering.

  9. I read mixed reviews about this one. I would probably feel for Hadley and want to strangle Hemmingway for not appreciating Hadley's love and support.

  10. This book looks really interesting, and I love the cover. It's so simple. Thanks for the review, I will have to check this book out!

  11. I was obsessed with Hadley after reading this book...

  12. I really think this book is a triumph. The subject matter definitely piqued my interest, the writing was flawless, and I wish there could be a sequel.

    Marlene Detierro (Fishing Lodges Alaska)