Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie
Length: 11.5 hours
Published in: 2011
Source: borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: browsed the audiobooks at the library and picked it off the shelf at random
Summary (from Goodreads):
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though 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 becomeThe 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 unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
My Thoughts: I have to be honest, coming away from this book, I had a basic hatred of Ernest Hemingway. I realize that it is fiction, but it does have some historical and biographical accuracies. I just contracted an utter dislike of Hemingway as he became a disgusting man who couldn’t decide what he wanted and tried to lead a normal life with a wife and mistress all together in one house. I honestly think I wouldn’t have been so adverse towards him if he’d had a small affair, divorced, and lived with his former mistress. But the fact that he thought a love-triangle to be something to try because he was too much of a coward to just pick one woman made me sick.
Maybe McLain painted him as more of a rascal than he was, but I was very intrigued by the story. The setting of the 1920s-1930s in Europe is one I love. I don’t think I’ve read any stories of Europe between world wars–America, yes; Europe, no. I liked seeing the similarities and differences. Also, I hadn’t thought the idea of hearing from the perspective of a housewife with a nanny for the baby to be anything but boring. I guess the drama of Hadley and Ernest’s relationship was enough to keep me interested. (I honestly don’t understand what someone does if they have no job and a nanny for the kid(s)!)
In the end, I loved the book. I still find Hemingway to be a sort of pig, but I shouldn’t judge him too harshly. This is hardly a two-sided telling of his first marriage, let alone a fictionalized version at that.