Thursday, February 2, 2012

Literary Bite: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first of four wifes (“starter wife,” if you will), Hadley Richardson. 

This book is fun, entertaining, and semi-educational in a wonderful historical fiction kind of way. 

She met Hemmingway at a party in Chicago in 1920, and they courted via letters until the married and moved to Paris together in 1921. The book covers the 7-year span of their doomed-to-fail relationship, from meeting through marriage and a child to eventual affairs and decline and divorce.  

Seeing Hemingway from Hadley’s perspective is an interesting way to learn about the famous author. Until reading this book, my Hemingway knowledge was pretty minimal, so it was interesting to learn about his writing style and process through the experiences of his wife. This book made me dislike Hemingway as a person (next week I’ll let you know what I think of his writing) – he treats Hadley badly, (though she lets him so it’s her fault too...). 

The Paris Wife is Paula McLain's second book. 
"I first came to know Hadley in the pages of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's remarkable memoir of his years in Paris. His reminiscences of Hadley were so moving that I decided to seek out biographies of her life—and that's when I knew what I'd found something special. Her voice and the arc of her life were riveting. She's the perfect person to show us a side of Hemingway we've never seen before—tender, vulnerable, and very human—but she's also an extraordinary person in her own right." (Read the full interview.)
As the NYT review notes, the prose is a bit cliché and clunky at times, but it was a really fun read. I genuinely cared about Hadley. If you liked the movie Midnight in Paris, you’ll love this book. And it might inspire you (like me) to read some Hemingway.