Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: The Paris Wife

Summary:  A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

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 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 unraveling 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. -- Ballantine

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably seen some of the fantastic reviews for THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain. Let me tell you....this is going to be another one! I absolutely adored this novel, and I've been recommending it to anyone (and everyone) who will listen!

When I saw it referenced that THE PARIS WIFE had some similarities to LOVING FRANK, a fictional account of Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress Mamah Borthwick Cheney, I pretty much knew I had to read it. (In fact, Ms. Horan's blurb appears on the front cover!) I thought LOVING FRANK was an interesting story of two very interesting people, and I greatly appreciated how well Ms. Horan brought them to life. And I have to say that parts of THE PARIS WIFE did remind me of LOVING FRANK, but THE PARIS WIFE definitely stands on its own as a quality piece of fiction.

I should probably tell you that while I loved this book and I found it extremely interesting to see how Ernest Hemingway and Hadley were portrayed, I basically knew very little about either one of them. I've never read anything by Hemingway (although I think I'm going to read THE SUN ALSO RISES after "meeting" so many of the characters in THE PARIS WIFE.) After I finished reading this novel, I decided to look into Hemingway's life (just a little), and I was extremely impressed with how Ms. McLain seemed to incorporate so many of  the facts into her fictional account. There is no doubt that the author knew her subject inside and out and did a marvelous job of making these characters seem so real.

There are so many wonderful things about this novel, but the one thing that really struck me was the character of Hadley. Yes... Hemingway is indeed a larger than life personality and incredibly interesting because of his unpredictability, but I appreciated seeing how his wife Hadley was portrayed. The book was written in Hadley's words and I positively loved how the author captured her voice. Hadley was so authentic to me and I found myself understanding her motivations and actions. And because the author did such a great job with her childhood and relationship with her family, I could even "get" the reasons why she was attracted to Hemingway and why she was willing to tolerate so much from him. While I didn't always agree with Hadley and her lifestyle, I found myself liking her and wanting a better life for her. In fact, my heart just broke for her in the scene where she discovered not only Hemingway's betrayal, but also the betrayal of one of her best friends.

There is a terrific website devoted to the novel that certainly enhanced my reading experience. There is more information about the book and the author as well as ideas for book clubs. In addition, there is a timeline of the major events in Hemingway's life along with a photo gallery. However, I think my favorite part was the section titled Fact vs. Fiction where the author outlines what was based on fact in this novel. There is also a section with some Hemingway trivia that I found interesting. As someone who gets most of my "history lessons" from historical fiction, I appreciated seeing what was real versus embellished.

I highly recommend THE PARIS WIFE for book club discussions, and I have a feeling that it is going to be a very popular choice over the next few years. There is a reading guide available with twenty thought-provoking questions. And to make your book club meeting extra-special, there are also recipe ideas and Hemingway inspired cocktails. Some of the topics you might want to explore include marriage, monogamy, values, art, literature, friendship, trust, parenthood, mother/child relationships, love, adultery, divorce, and fame.

I absolutely cannot rave enough about THE PARIS WIFE. Truly, each and every page of this novel was a treat to me! I know my review didn't do it justice, but please trust me and just read this book!

Thanks to Entertainment Marketing Group for sending me a copy of this novel.

13 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

Nothing gets me more excited than pictures! Makes it all the more real. And the fact that Hemingway is so about Florida history, I think I'm going to have to read it. (So do you all get together and launch strategic offensives to make us all want to buy certain books??? You are quite effective!)

bermudaonion said...

I've been excited about this book every since you started raving about it on Twitter. It sounds fabulous!

Marg said...

I've been under a rock! Now that someone has lifted it off me, I want this book!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I've heard that this book will not make Hemingway fans happy, but I would be a Hadley fan before I would be a Hemingway fan!

Jenny Girl said...

I recently learned about this book, and thought it must be good. After reading your excellent review, I see that it is :) Your I think is the first review I have read too. Thanks Julie.

heyiwanttoreadthat.com said...

Great review, now I have even more reason to want to read it. It does sound fantastic.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

This is the second great review I have read this morning and I am so excited to read this book :)

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

This is WAITING for me at the library...I'm picking it up tomorrow! Woot!

Karlie said...

I can't wait to read this one! Thanks for a great review!

Aths said...

What a wonderful review! I am really excited about this book, even though I haven't read anything by Hemmingway either!

Swapna said...

It's funny, I received this one unsolicited and was THIS CLOSE to putting it in the TBD (to be donated) pile, when I started reading all the fantastic reviews. After reading yours, I'm so glad I decided to keep it!

Eleanor said...

I am a Hadley Hemingway fan and was a terrible disappointment. She is portrayed as stodgy, boring, an onlooker, which was hardly the case. She was tremendously beautiful, graceful, athletic, charismatic. All the true elegance and romance of the couple is sapped out of this account, and the dialogue is absolutely leaden. The cover, of 1950's suited woman, is so off period that it evokes the bored housewife tone of the book.

Irene said...

I live under a rock as well. but I'm moving. thanks for your wonderful review.