Wednesday, March 9, 2011
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.