Another McLain novel, because I enjoyed the last one so much! “The Paris Wife” had me hooked within minutes as McLain describes the preface of the novel- the love story and downfall of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage, from the point of view of his wife Hadley.
Elizabeth “Hadley” Richardson, age 28, flees to Chicago for a reprieve from grief over her mother’s death and sullen family life. Determined to shed her “spinster aunt” image and find something to live for, she attends a party and meets young Ernest Hemingway, age 21. Right away, his passion for life and writing deeply attracts Hadley, and they soon form a friendship, writing letters back and forth almost daily after she returns home to St. Louis. After some time, Ernest finally proposes, and though there were nerves on both accounts, they marry and follow Ernest’s dreams of becoming a famous writer, moving to Paris in 1921.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)
However, Paris isn’t what they expected. The romanticized fantasy of fast success quickly gives way to reality of a struggling artist’s lifestyle. Hadley makes the best of the situation, trying to give Ernest the space he needs to write in the their tiny, overpriced apartments while still giving him the love, encouragement, and support he needs to push through his writing. As the couple meets new couples and artists alike, they begin to explore the modern Paris, and European, scenes. During a discussion on marriage, one friend pointed out to Hadley:
“You suffer for his career. What do you get in the end?”
and her reply:
“The satisfaction of knowing he couldn’t do it without me.”
Unfortunately, Hadley starts to notice changes in her relationship with Ernest that she can’t ignore. He’s easily frustrated with her, he spends hours and sometimes longer writing away from her, and when she finds out she’s pregnant, he thinks it a ploy to distract him from his work. Hadley weathers these storms, but when she finally notices that Ernest has his eye on another woman, she can’t deny that her marriage is in danger.
McLain yet again does an excellent job on relaying the story as if you were in the room, a part of the whole scene. The detail in her narration and the word choice is so pleasing (in my opinion), and it makes for a gripping but easy read. I actually flagged many lines to quote in example to how precise her character depth is, including one that made me look up Ernest Hemingway’s astrology sign (I’m really into astrology right now) to find that I was correct in guessing he was a Leo! But I decided to leave those right where they are, so that you may all find those delectable nuggets on your own. Simply a lovely, honest read.