The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books. 2011.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 314.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of women and literature. The book may especially be of interest to Hemingway fans.
Rating: Good to very good.

Goodreads author page for Paula McLain.

Paula McLain has written another book about the wives of Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife is book one about the first wife.
Love and Ruin is the third book about the third wife.

Link for The Paris Wife @ Amazon.

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway. They married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Their son was John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. His nickname was Bumby. He was born in 1923. He died in 2000.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway. They married in 1927 after his divorce from Hadley. Hadley and Pauline had been friends. Ernest and Pauline had 2 sons: Patrick and Gregory (Gloria). Ernest and Pauline divorced in 1940.

Summary:

The Paris Wife is from the voice of Hadley. In the first pages, Hadley is grieving the death of her mother who she had a strained relationship. She takes a trip to Chicago and at a party she meets Ernest. It’s only been a couple of years since Armistice Day. Ernest is a young, ambitious, vibrant, charismatic, charming, persuasive Romeo. He is a strong pursuer.

Hadley is older than Ernest by 7 years and 8 months.

Hadley has not had the social life of dating and relationships that Ernest had. She has lived at home. She’s had three deaths to grieve in her lifetime. Each taking a little bit more away from her psyche.

The story follows their relationship to the end and especially during their Paris years. In the final chapters of the book, it shares about Hadley’s later part of life. The book does not share the detailed life of their son Jack or Bumby (as he was called as a child).

My Thoughts:

The main point I do not like about the book is the structure or form. Hadley shares her story in her voice, but every once in a while, Ernest (in italics) shares his story. I dislike him having a voice at all considering Hadley points out more than once that his personality is so big, he fills the room with his presence. This is another way of saying he sucked all the air out of the room. So, I’d say that through Hadley sharing her story, Ernest has a big enough presence that I don’t need him to have any more voice than he already has. I want to clarify. I enjoy reading Hemingway stories. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a favorite. I want Hadley to have a complete book in her voice. It is her story.

Later in the book, Hadley shares that she feels she had the best of him-the early years before he was a famous writer.

Hadley is a wife who is very supportive of his work. She praises and encourages him. There is a point in the story where she finally has an emotional event. She has been supporting him. She has been giving her all to him. She lives for him. But she has had enough. She is emotionally frayed and starved. I’ve known several women, especially those from the previous generations who completely live for their husbands. Their feelings and thoughts and goals and desires are not really their own but their husbands. The wife has no hobby of her own. She has no work of her own. She has no other opinions but his. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. To lose oneself in another. And I dislike Ernest’s reaction to her emotional event. In essence, what she did was finally open her mouth and rise up and say no. No, she did not want him to go. And for this he was angry.

From the start, I immediately like Hadley. She is imperfect (as all people). Even though there is a vulnerability and sadness, I also see a strength that I don’t think she realized she had until later in life. I certainly have empathy for her.

I enjoyed reading about their life in Paris. Where they lived. The people they met. The places they visited, especially the travels to other countries.

I enjoyed reading about how his writing style evolved or transformed.

I enjoyed reading about the cultural changes starting in about 1921.

I’d certainly like to have read more about the Shakespeare and Company book store located on the Left Bank in Paris. It is mentioned but not in descriptive detail.

Hadley Richardson Hemingway Mowrer died in 1979.

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