The Paris Wife
Paula McLainThough deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard- drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unravelling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
WHSmith Edition now contains Exclusive Bonus material including...
Author confessions about her childhood growing up in foster care
Suggested Reading Where to start for more Hemingway
Other Great Reads Find out more about the 1920's and Paris
For me, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant for the fact that, from the outset, we know this happiest of young marriages is doomed. Hadley herself is our narrator and issues a clear warning in the opening chapter. 'I don't want to say, Keep watch for the girl who will come along and ruin everything, but she's coming anyway, set on her course in a gorgeous chipmunk coat and fine shoes.' Oh dear.
But the strength and tenderness of the relationship, so beautifully described by McLain, conspires to almost make us forget that it is headed for disaster. And the descriptions of Paris in the early 1920s are marvellous. This was the sparkling dawn of the impossibly glamorous Jazz Age. The Hemingways are surrounded by legendary figures - F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda; Gertrude Stein; Ezra Pound. Life is fuelled by gossip and alcohol and sex. All are in full flight from the terrible war, and the atmosphere is volatile.
Hadley has a son and begins to realise that a bohemian lifestyle with exotic, febrile friends is no basis for family life. She begins to lose her confidence and is plagued by jealousy. Meanwhile Hemingway's writing is reaching its fullest power and a terrible deception is imminent. This is a wonderful book and a fascinating insight into the early life of a literary giant. It also moved me to tears.
This is romantic fiction based on events in real-life: the deeply moving and heartbreaking story of novelist Ernest Hemingway's first marriage. He is in Chicago, back home from the Great War, and suffering from a mild version of what today we would call post- traumatic stress disorder. She is eight years older than the 20-year-old Hemingway. Hadley Richardson believes she is firmly on the shelf, and is quietly resigned to a spinster's life. She has no idea how captivating a woman she really is.
But then she and Hemingway meet, and their connection is electric. Hadley finds the handsome, quintessentially masculine young writer irresistible and he falls utterly in love with her.
Hemingway has yet to write his first masterpiece but Hadley has complete faith in him. Almost as soon as they are married, they quit Chicago for Paris, where they believe he will be inspired by the company of other ex-pat American artists and writers. They can live cheaply there, too, and sail for Europe full of hope. Paula McLain catches the very essence of young love and the huge optimism it inspires: we are a little in love ourselves with the dashing, confident young couple, especially as we know that theirs is a true story.
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