The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
This very elegant book is written from the fictional perspective of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. McLain, in the voice of Hadley, tells of their brief courtship and their young marriage. Early on, they moved to Paris and lived a very French life in the 1920’s, drinking and socializing with the artists and intellectual elite of the day. Gradually, as Ernest becomes caught up in his upward climb to notoriety, he alienates his friends and eventually his own true love, Hadley herself. And while the story is ultimately quite sad, it is also very beautiful in so many ways that the reader is left with a sense that things had to be as they were.
The story is told so smoothly that this reader felt she was reading the diary of a close friend. It is hard not to love Hadley and have compassion for her and yet, at the same time, there is compassion for Ernest as well. Even while the reader watches the demise of the relationship, each character in his/her own way is real and multidimensional and therefore sympathetic as well.
It also is a beautiful piece of historical fiction, with insight into the very real “roaring” that went on in the 1920’s. Intellectual ideas and the search for beauty and truth seemed to have frequently been drowned in alcohol and lust. The loneliness and emotionality of the artist personality was almost cliche, but was depicted very realistically.
It inspired me to want to read some of Hemingway’s novels. I just might do that…