Meeting through mutual friends in Chicago, Hadley is intrigued by brash "beautiful boy" Ernest Hemingway, and after a brief courtship and small wedding, they take off for Paris, where Hadley makes a convincing transformation from an overprotected child to a game and brave young woman who puts up with impoverished living conditions and shattering loneliness to prop up her husband's career.
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Hadley was almost
Shortly after their marriage in 1921, they moved to Paris at the urging of Sherwood Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio) so Hemingway could advance his writing career. Their circle of friends quickly included Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Ford Maddox Ford, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. Socializing with this crowd included professional and sexual jealousy, heavy drinking and drugs.
Hadley was a stablizing influence on Hemingway that allowed him to focus on his writing and it was mostly money that she had inherited that paid for their living expenses and gave them the ability to travel around Europe. Part of the author’s goal in telling this story was to show how crucial Hadley’s influence was in launching Hemingway’s career.
Ernest and Hadley’s marriage only lasted from 1921 to 1926 and it’s heartbreaking to see it start as a true love story and then see it unravel under the pressure of Hemingway’s obsession with his writing and his betrayal of Hadley with one of her good friends.
This book was a page turner for me. It’s extremely well written and I felt like I was transported to Paris in the 1920s. The author does a great job portraying the complexities of Ernest and Hadley’s relationship and I’ve already started on a biography of Hemingway during the Paris years and am looking forward to getting to A Moveable Feast which is Hemingway’s account of his first marriage. I would highly recommend this book.
Hadley Richardson was born and raised in St. Louis. She was a shy, reclusive child, made worse by her father’s sudden suicide and the ongoing pressure of an over-bearing mother. In December 1920, while visiting an old roommate in Chicago, she meets a dashing
This well-researched but fictionalized account, follows Hadley’s marriage to Ernest, their move to Paris in early 1922, Ernest’s struggling effort to establish a writing career and their introductions and eventual friendships with many of the more popular writers of the day, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This becomes the best period in both of their lives and then, seeming to coincide with Hemingway’s blossoming fame, he has an affair with a mutual friend, Pauline Pfeifer and everything is turned upside down.
Much of this material was covered in Hemingway’s memoir [A Moveable Feast] but this time the story is told through Hadley’s eyes and what a fascinating glimpse it is.
It seems theirs was a love, deep and true. Although from wealthy families, on their own, they were poor and struggling yet what good times they shared together and with their artsy circle of friends. One such friend, Sherwood Anderson, recommended they move to Paris where Hemingway could network with fellow writers and seek their guidance and connections. I felt a part of the scene as Hadley and Hemingway viewed the running of the bulls in Pamplona, skied down Swiss mountainsides or simply shared another brandy with them and their friends at a Parisian café. How sad when the good times ended for them, still so much in love but unable to go on as they were.
After reading The Paris Wife I feel I can now enjoy Hemingway’s novels so much more fully. I think I have gained a better understanding of his writing technique and the times in which he lived.
I have the highest praise for Ms. McLain! She has presented a very complex writer and his wife in a truly memorable manner and I look forward with great anticipation to future works by this author.
The story, and I use that term loosely, is coldly told from Hadley's perspective. She is just an adjunct to Ernest having almost no interests of her own other than playing the piano. I got no feelings of emotion from her even when her husband is playing around with Pauline who would become his second wife. Hadley always took the path of least resistance.
If you think you're going to read great descriptions of Paris, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed in this one.
"People belong to each other only as long as they both believe. He's stopped believing."
Historical fiction when done well
I am looking forward to reading Paula McLain's "Love and Ruin" - the story of Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious woman ahead of her time, becoming one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century and at one point in her personal history - the 3rd wife of Ernest Hemingway.
Paula McLain tells the story of Hadley Richardson, the woman who is best known as being the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. The story details their courtship, their years in Paris, and the eventual disintegration of their marriage. All of the supporting characters are present as well: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, the Fitzgeralds, etc.
The novel is beautifully written. Despite my dislike of Hemingway, I was made to understand how someone could fall in love with a man like him. It also opened my eyes to the many layers that made up Hemingway's personality and how complicated his relationships were with pretty much everyone who knew him, especially the women in his life. Hadley herself was a fascinating woman, though it was sometimes difficult to be sympathetic to some of her problems. There were many moments within the novel that I so desperately wanted her to stand up for herself, despite that being the opposite of who she was.
Overall, I highly recommend this fictional first hand account to anyone who has an interest in Hemingway, the Lost Generation, or the women who exist behind some of the greatest literary minds of the 20th century.
The book is a novelization of Hemingway's first marriage to a woman eight years his
Hemingway, at this point, has not yet morphed into his boozy Papa persona, but there is certainly forewarning of the drunk-sodden bully he became. He is boastful, insensitive, mean-spirited, insecure and egotistical.
Hadley comes across as a fine and decent but uninteresting person. She is bland, interesting only because of her proximity to a famous writer. Admittedly she led a sheltered life before meeting Hemingway, but she seems very naive for her age. Even when her husband betrays her, she is too good-hearted and continues to see him as some sort of romantic hero. One might not expect her to behave like a modern woman faced with her husband's infidelity, especially since she herself describes herself as Victorian, but some anger and meanness would be normal. Her one negative flaw is her distant, rather indifferent relationship with Bumby, her son, a relationship certainly influenced by her husband's view of a child as anathema to the Bohemian lifestyle he favours. Hemingway describes his first wife as "everything good and straight and fine and true" but those are not, perhaps regrettably, the qualities of an interesting literary character.
There is nothing in the book to suggest that the marriage was special in any way, other than perhaps the fact that it survived as long as it did in an era of open marriages. Their romance seems rather tepid. What's with the stupid, unexplained nicknames? Hemingway may have loved her, but there is little evidence of his love, other than his avowals which are negated by his actions. Hadley does meet his needs: she has faith in his talent, has a small but useful inheritance, and is willing to follow him anywhere. Her only contribution is to serve as Hemingway's doormat?
The book becomes tiresome. The scenes are repetitive and mundane: endless gatherings of friends, excessive drinking, and vague descriptions of travels. The emotional life of Hemingway's first wife is not developed. The characters are not brought to life so the reader is not engaged. In the end, the book lacks substance and feels flat, much like Hadley.
Hadley is completely boring. She has no ideas or even real opinions. All she does is sit around and wait for Hemingway to marry him, and, after she does, she sits in her apartment in Paris waiting for him to come home. She does drink a lot and does get drunk--and that sums up Hadley.
We see her completely from the outside. She makes no perceptive comments, ponders no political or philosophical questions, indeed, seems not to notice the intellectual and artistic ferment around her. Ernest has told her about writing "pure," so she recounts that, but with no esthetic judgment or comment. She just says what Ernest is trying to do. Most of the time, however, if she's not having headaches, she is chronicling what jobs he's managed to snag. For this you go to Paris?
Oh, she's a bit careless. On her way to Switzerland to meet Ernest, she manages to lose his case with all his writing in it. Ironically, this is the only instance I recall in this book in which Hadley independently decided to do something. That is, Ernest hadn't asked her to bring the case. She did it on her own.
She also, on her own, forgot her diaphragm. Apparently, she wanted to have a baby, but Ernest didn't. Although she is incredibly passive, she does in this one instance, give Ernest her reason. Guess what? She feels the biological clock ticking. No, she doesn't use that wording, but she does tell her husband that she is already 31 and if she waits she won't be able to get pregnant. The problem with this bit of fiction is that doctors did not yet know about the correlation between fertility and youth. That was a late 20th century discovery.
Again, when Ernest starts his affair with Pauline, who is destined to be wife #2, Hadley's inner turmoil, her rage, the blurred vision of despair, none of this is described. Instead, she does tell Ernest that Pauline is a whore, and, later, bloodlessly tells him she'll give him a divorce. No description of what it's like to be seething with jealousy, the sick feelings of abandonment. If we don't get a clue about what Hadley is thinking and feeling or how she perceives her surroundings, we get even less about Ernest, except for his reason for his unadorned writing style.
At no time did I become emotionally involved with the Paris wife. That is because McLain, who apparently did extensive research about her, never lets us feel what Hadley is feeling. For example, when she lost the writing case, there is no description of any inner turmoil. She is described as running around to look for it, and it is stated that she was annoyed the police, and that she thinks the case was thrown in a dustbin when the thief found it had nothing of value in it. That's it.
When Ernest gets the news that In Our Time was accepted for publication, she does say "It was an epic moment..." but instead of describing Hadley's surge of joy (I presume she must have had one) or her elation so that we could feel as she did, instead we get, "It was the end of Ernest's apprenticeship...He would never again be unknown. We would never again be this happy." When they got the news, how could she have known that? If the book were narrated by an omnicient author, those statements would have been warranted, but it is a first-person narration, and, at this point such a prediction doesn't ring true.
The picture that is painted is of a woman who, except for apparently was willing to have sex with her husband, is the typical 19th century appendage called a wife. She mopes around waiting for her man. She has headaches. When Ernest became famous "...the quintessential Left Bank Writer...the very sort of artist that had made him cringe two years before..."her only reaction is "I didn't want to hold him back. Not when things were finally beginning to hit for him." The noble, long-suffering wife. She says nothing and apparently feels nothing about the fact that he's clearly distancing himself from her. She should have been in a turmoil of emotions or at least felt sad, instead she says, in effect, "it's okay if he throws me out with the trash, so long as he's happy." In sum, Hadley is portrayed as vapid, uninteresting, uninspired.
I have read biographies with more emotional impact than this--far more emotional impact. Oh, I almost forgot, on p. 113, she does have a feeling: "...I felt a cold rush go through me." This is in response to her hearing about the possibility of another war.
Perhaps if the writing itself had not been so pedestrian, this would have been more palatable. There are scenes set in Switzerland and Italy--places with gorgeous mountain views, spectacular sunsets, charming or splendid architecture. Yet, McLain doesn't describe the wonders of these settings. Instead she writes like a travel guide, letting us know locations.
If you have a special interest in Hadley or Ernest, perhaps you will like this more than I did. What makes me wonder are the comments of Nancy Horan who wrote the magnificent, compelling, bio-novel of a married woman's affair with Frank Lloyd Wright, Loving Frank. She says "This remarkable novel about Ernest Hemingway's first marriage is mesmerizing. Hadley's voice, lean and lyrical, kept me in my seat, unable to take my eyes and ears away from these young lovers. Paula McLain is a wonderful writer who creates a world you don't want to leave. I loved this book."
I have enormous respect for Nancy Horan and her writing, so maybe I'm just a grinch. I could barely finish this book. I never felt as if I was in a fictional world, and I found the writing pedestrian to the point of plodding. Go figure.
We meet Hadley
The Paris years are marked with highs and lows. Ernest's career, while promising, takes a while to kick into high gear. The couple is poor but manage to stay afloat, thanks to Hadley's inheritance. They are in love, though, and surrounded by friends who feed their appetites and souls. However, Ernest's depression, wandering eye and eventual affair with another woman put an irreversible dent in their marriage, and Hadley decides to leave him and her life in Paris.
McLain does a commendable job capturing the artistic fever of 1920's Paris. The Paris Wife is a veritable who's who of the writing and art scene. What I can't determine is McLain's motive for her characters because, for me, not one of them was likeable. Hadley was spineless and too accommodating. Ernest was self-centered and chauvinistic. Even the minor characters were less than likeable. It made liking The Paris Wife a hard task.
If a lesson can be learned from the story it's this: If you marry a man with a lot of baggage, you'll end up packing yours in the end. I think Hadley would certainly agree.
So I wasn't sure a fictionalized account of Hemingway's first marriage, told from Hadley's point of view was needed. After all, she is presented in A Moveable Feast as a strong, cheerful, grounded woman; not a bad way to be remembered. And my own irrational love of the book Paula McLain based this book on left me determined both to read her book and to sneer at it. And now, having read the damn thing, I can't. McLain has done a good job at untangling the chronology and relationships. She's kept the speculation to a minimum and has clearly read Hemingway's books and biographies until they were coming out of her ears. Her writing is even similar in tone, without descending into parody. I liked it.
Paula McClain maintains a consistency in the voice of Hadley that reveals the Paris wife’s constricted, conventional views of marriage and family even though the couple lived adventurous lives of expatriates in Paris and other European settings during the chaotic 1920s. Hadley is portrayed as being somewhat flat of affect and limited in artistic vision but game in socializing, playing, and drinking in the fast set of Hemingway’s successful artistic mentors and friends. Hadley’s attitudes keep the novelist in check in his exuberance but become restrictive to his expansive joy of life. Ezra Pound warned Hadley against this restriction of spirit in the artist, but Hadley thought she was being a responsible sport and not a wet blanket. Her inadvertent smothering activities opened the door for Pauline, Hemingway’s second wife, to awkwardly lift the blanket and release the couple from a marriage that they knew could not be sustained.
As McClain maintains Hadley’s point of view she tries to justify what could be considered the glacial pace of Hadley’s development by including several italicized descriptions of what Hemingway was thinking a various points during his early artistic and social life. This intrusion of McClain’s assumptions about Hemingway’s life of the mind is quite a stretch and a somewhat poor literary device for showing that the two were not exactly on the same motivational wavelength. In this respect, McClain’s novel is parallel to Carlos Baker’s biography of Hemingway that never missed a chance to characterize the writer as a bullying, insecure, self-centered, and petty competitor with other people. Both McClain and Baker missed the charismatic and joyful nature of the novelist that was depicted by A. E. Hotchner in Papa Hemingway. Hadley may have been a stable platform for Ernest’s early writing career but she also seemed to be a stifling force on his talent rather than a muse for his creativity.
I enjoyed reading this novel very much and predict it will appeal to many readers who are fascinated with Hemingway’s art and life. I believe it will reach the top of the Amazon and New York Times best sellers lists. I think McClain’s injection of her own personality into Hadley led to a remarkably insightful and entertaining novel. The story is not so much romantic as it is a bitter sweet description of two mismatched people, incompatible because of different reactions to their common backgrounds. It reminds me of the line in the song, Send in the Clowns – “one who keeps tearing around, one who can’t move.” Given that view, Pauline is not a home wrecker but rather an almost innocent dupe who showed Hemingway and Hadley what they already knew; their relationship could only be temporary.
It's a straightforward novelization of Hadley Hemingway's life with Ernest. Too straightforward. Most of the time, the research seems to dominate the storytelling, as if the author loves the subject so much that not a detail must be spared. It just felt a bit tedious to be told that Ernest reported for work in Toronto on September 10, and they heard on September 14 that Smyrna was burning in the Greco-Turkish war. There was too much of obsessing with "Who said what, and where" that the actual people in the story had all the dimension of a Wiki article. I didn't know what Hadley looked like (who can keep track of all those wives?), and it's not until quite a ways into the book that we're told of her facial features and hairstyle. It's as if the author assumes the reader is already right there beside her in the Hemingway knowledge and love. A paragraph about Hadley looking at the meats and vegetables at a Paris market is but an example of this saturation of minutae about the Hemingways and their travels and experiences. Riveting no doubt to a rabid fan, but for the casual reader, *yawn*.
There's lots of cameos by other Lost Generation members, but they have all the substance of cameos. I dunno, I think I'd much rather read non-fiction about somebody than a dull novel that reads like somebody took a biography and added dialogue to it. And that's what this one felt like. So I'd recommend it for the Hemingway fan who wants to read a book with moments where they can exclaim, "They've moved to Paris! Yay, we're at the part where Ernest and Gertrude Stein are falling out! Oh, and now they're meeting F. Scott and Zelda!"
Fine book for those who like that, but not for me. I'm not sure this is strict "literary fiction," more "literary crush fiction." And I like my historical fiction to be more meaty than this.
ARC rec'd from Goodreads Giveaway.
Hadley Hemingway was a victim of her obsession with Ernest and lived in his shadow until he tired of her. It is difficult to feel empathy for someone who so willingly subjugated herself to her husband, and I was incredulous about what she endured at the end of their marriage when Pauline became the third member of their marriage.
The dissolute lifestyle of the "lost generation" of writers who lived in Paris during the 1920s was lamentable because their excesses seemingly took precedence over their literary talents. I found the recounting of these excesses eventually became tiresome, and I simply couldn’t summon much interest in what happened to Ernest or Hadley. Although fictionalized, this book apparently is an accurate reflection of Hemingway’s first marriage.
Hadley emerges as a sympathetic character caught up in, and in the end, overwhelmed by the frantic and competitive artistic/bohemian world of post WW I Paris. Pound, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, and others weave through the lives of Hadley and Hemingway, but it is primarily a world created by and for Hemingway. McLain describes the crossroads where the old way of life is being cast aside in favor of an alternative, “modern” way. Parallels between women of that period wanting to be modern and the feminist movement of the late 60s automatically come to mind.
Offering neither enormous wealth, artistic passion, or wild abandon, Hadley’s marriage is doomed to be eclipsed as Hemingway’s success as author rises. It’s the old story of what can happen to a marriage, but McLain makes you want to know the narrative as it unfolded for these two people. And more importantly, you come to care what happened to them.
Narrator Hadley Richardson first encounters Hemingway at a friend's house in Chicago in 1921, and after a brief courtship through letters, they marry and relocate to Paris. There, Hemingway befriends other writers like Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, while he attempts to jumpstart his own career. The rotating cast of other couples, necessary because Hemingway keeps burning his bridges, becomes confusing. Somehow, despite their limited finances, Hadley and Hemingway are constantly traveling around Europe (occasionally on his journalistic assignment, but more often vacationing). Hadley's pregnancy causes conflict for the couple, but as soon as the child is born, he becomes nothing but an afterthought in the narrative. I found Hadley and Hemingway's strange nicknames for each other grating, and Hemingway himself rather whiny.
I admit I've never read The Sun Also Rises, which the Hemingway character pens and publishes during the course of The Paris Wife, or anything written by the other writers in Hemingway's circle save for Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Maybe I'd have enjoyed McLain's book more had I been more familiar with this generation of authors, but at the same time, her work should have inspired me to seek out Hemingway's, and instead I'm convinced that I'm not missing much.
I have nothing more to add to the review descriptions below. They express much about the book and I agree with their opinions.
There is one thing I would like to point out.
LOOKING AT THE HUGE
SO MY QUESTION FOR LIBBY MCGUIRE,THE PUBLISHER IS THIS:
WHY DOES THE PHOTO ON THE COVER OF THE BOOK SCREAM DIOR'S new look and 1947?????? WHY NOT A PHOTO USING A WOMAN DRESSED AS ACCURATELY AND BEAUTIFULLY AS THE ACTRESSES ON BOARDWALK EMPIRE?
IS IT BECAUSE AN UNREAD MILENNIAL PICKED THIS PHOTO?
As the story continues to unfold, Hadley continues to tell of her life and experiences in Paris with Ernest and the ups and downs of the times vs.their relationship. Ernest was beginning to be recognized for his first novel and their lives became more frantic. With the birth of their first child, Hadley finds their marriage crumbling as well as impossible as Ernest's fame increases. Their relationship is a heartrending depiction of a broken marriage. Their relationship showed so much promise, Hadley was Ernest's equal on many levels and it was obvious that Ernest loved and revered her. Sometimes life gets in the way.
In 1920 Hadley Richardson is 28 years old and she is close to giving up on love. Enter young Ernest Hemingway who proceeds to sweep her off her feet. After a whirlwind courtship they marry and set sail for Paris.
Once they have up residence in Paris and settled into their new life they meet all the great names, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald and as such defined as the Lost Generation. It's the Jazz Age and there is no better time to be in Paris. Although deeply in love, parties and drinking is the mainstay of their lives. In the midst of all this distraction Hemingway struggles to write and get published and will do anything to achieve this goal. Hadley is the traditional wife living then a very modern and untraditional kind of life. She is supportive and understanding to the extreme while Hemingway, self-absorbed and callous is her opposite.
This was a very different kind of romance, while the kind of life the Hemingway's lived might be unattainable to most it had very real elements which successfully allures one into their story.
As a historical portrait of the time and period, I found much of the novel to be spot on. It was clearly very well researched in that regard. But that's where the books promise ends - the characters were all flat and Hadley was simpering and weak. The big pitch about the storyline was Hadley was a woman very much toe to toe with Hemingway in wit, intelligence, and in life and you get none of this in this book. At times I found the book a struggle to get through, but I finished it out of stubbornness.
A ficiotnalized history of someone should be written to inspire the reader to learning more about the person(s) of the time and this is the big failure of A PARIS WIFE. If I had not already had a burgeoning interest in Hemingway and a vague obsession for Paris in the '20s, this book would not have sent me in pursuit to learn more about the man or his crowd, which is a travesty.
There were also a few nitpicky editing decisions that were out of sync. For example, there is a scene where Hadley/Hemingway are having loads of hot sexytimes and then a few paragraphs later, they go have hot sexytimes again but Hemingway gets in a snit because they forgot to bring condoms - which totally belies the previous scene where they were having hot sexytimes all over the place. There are also issues where continuity was in question and never addresed.
I would not recommend this title because it does a disservice to Hemingway/Hadley, the writing is often flat and a lot of the supporting characters that were larger then life (Gertrude Steine, Fitzgerald, etc) seemed like secondary puppets on a small supporting stage. I gave it a three because there are a few moments of brilliancy in the book, but often it is from direct quotes of Hemingway's work.