The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally published in March of 2013
I think my favorite part of this book is the beginning. It starts off with so much hope and promise, the kind of life some people have when they are in their early twenties and all their dreams are ahead of them. All that heady potential. But that disappears quickly into uncertainty and questions. Although happiness peeks out at various points in the novel, it’s drowned out by fighting and anger. I came to this novel with no real knowledge of Hemingway or his life, although I’d read a few of his books. Reading McLain’s perspective on what it was like to be Hemingway’s first wife was enthralling. I almost fell in love with him along with Hadley Richardson. McLain’s Hemingway is magnetic, confident, and intriguing. At least, in the beginning. Later…oh, later. It read like a portrayal of a marriage written by someone who knows how badly even the best can fall apart. But I don’t want to spoil anything. So, moving on. I especially appreciated the “Reader’s Guide” at the back of the book where McLain talks about the research she did for this novel. I was surprised to read that she didn’t visit any of the places she wrote about until after her novel was published. In the book they are so real I could believe I was there. I’m glad she explains why she included the parts in Hemingway’s voice; I could understand their inclusion but I thought they felt awkward when I read them. There was too little from Hemingway to possibly balance out an entire book in Hadley’s voice. Though McLain did an excellent job giving them entirely different voices, and McLain’s Hadley puts Hemingway in the best possible light. When I finished this, all I wanted to do was read A Moveable Feast, which was The Paris Wife from Hemingway’s perspective. (At this point the universe is actively conspiring against me to prevent my reading it.) I’d love to read The Paris Wife, A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises, which Hemingway published during the time The Paris Wife takes place. (Along with some volumes of poetry and short stories. I never realized Hemingway wrote poetry.) But those three novels together should give the most rounded perspective possible on what all the characters were like. Well, at least without going and tracking down all the letters Hadley and Ernest wrote to each other, which of course McLain did for the research for this novel. Gotta say, I’m a tiny bit jealous. Spending your days reading the letters, novels and poems of famous writers as research for your own book? Sign me up.

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