From the prologue: Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris. Part of it was the war. The world had ended once already and could again at any moment. The war had come and changed us by happening when everyone said it couldn’t.

From Chapter 1: The very first thing he does is fix me with those wonderfully brown eyes and say, “it’s possible I’m too drunk to judge, but you might have something there.”

The Paris Wife is an interesting, if somewhat depressing, novel. It’s the story of Hadley Richardson, who at age 28 meets the 21 year old aspiring writer Ernest Hemingway. The two marry and move to Paris. This book is basically about their relationship’s ups and downs. The back is a bit misleading. It says that Hemingway wrote that “he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.” But they divorced after only 6 years, though they were very much in love. Hemingway went on to have three more wives. The back cover acts like it’s a true love, happily-ever-after story, which it was not, though I do think that Hemingway never stopped loving Hadley.

However, the writing style in this book is really engaging. The novel flows at a leisurely pace, kind of philosophically; it’s actually very different from Hemingway’s writing, not harsh or abrupt at all, though obviously that concept is touched upon.

I have mixed feelings about The Paris Wife. I did really like the writing, but I’m not sure I liked the way that Hemingway himself was portrayed. He’s kind of a jerk at times (which I think he was in real life anyway), and Hadley, a bright, smart, young woman (though older than him) has to sacrifice practically everything for his career. It was really sad. And Hemingway doesn’t really seem to understand Hadley much at all. They’re very different people.

I am fairly interested in this period though: the artists’ scene in Paris in the 20’s. I saw Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, and this was an interesting and very different revisit to that era. I also learned some interesting history that I didn’t know before.

I feel like The Paris Wife could have done more, but it was an adequate and entertaining read. I was doing some quick research online, and it seems like Paula McLain stuck very accurately to the facts. She has created a very well researched, but somehow slightly lacking novel. I did love the ending of the novel a lot. It was really good, and different, and managed to make my rating 4 stars (though 3 on Goodreads).

Read The Paris Wife:

  • if you like Ernest Hemingway
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like books set in Paris

314 pages.

 
Very Good! I would recommend this book!
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