The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

This historical- part fictionalized novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson had been on my to-read list for some time. Overall, I enjoyed it. There was a point where I almost bailed on the book but I am glad I didn’t. Knowing that Hadley was not his only wife (he had four) there was, of course, the expectation of reading about their marriage dissolving. That was where I started to lose a bit of interest. But……….I am getting ahead of myself.

It did not start out in Paris. The beginning of this book outlines Hadley’s early life and the tragedies of her illness, her father taking his life and her mother trying to control her. Meeting Hemingway during a visit to Chicago was clearly the beginnings of a new life for Hadley. He was interesting, energetic, creative and had a determination to be a force in the literary world which was a force of its own. As you read about the budding romance and his constant letters to Hadley, you could almost forget that this marriage was destined to fail.

Once they married and moved to Paris, things slowly, very slowly, started unraveling for them. I liked reading about the meetings with Gertrude Stein and Erza Pound. I loved some of the descriptors of the restaurants, the boozing, the flirting and music – all of the bohemian get-togethers and parties.

I thought Ernest was a bit of dick about Hadley’s pregnancy. Sometimes it seemed little Bumby was neglected, handed off to the nanny a bit much. Once Hadley’s good friend Pauline entered the picture you could see there was nothing she could have done to keep Hem. Pauline was beautiful, lithe and athletic (as described by Hemingway) and unlike Hadley in so many ways. What a double betrayal to Hadley, for her best friend to aggressively pursue her husband.

Toward the end, after Hadley moved on with her life and settled into a loving and stable second marriage, Hem called a few times and there was a bit of regret at not having her in his life.

Funny how that works when you look back on your youth. You see how different things may have been. He was a passionate man, a creative soul and a “Sonofabitch” as Hadley called him. But she also called him an incomparable friend.

Poulet Roti au riz et aux figues in honor of Hadley Hemingway (the Paris Wife)….more info on this meal may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

More info:
Paula McLain
Ernest Hemingway
Hadley Richardson


7 thoughts on “The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

  1. I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, too, but haven’t yet. It is hard to read books like this, where you know what will happen at the end. Sometimes it just feels like you’re holding your breath, waiting for that ending to get there.


    • You put that so well Janel, expressing what I feel about many memoir type books. I can tell you, there are facts in there I didn’t know and the way the author presented information taken from Hadley’s letters and journals gave you insight to her feelings.
      Thanks for the nice comment!


  2. Your blog is so terrific — what a great idea!

    I mean, I enjoy reading book reviews just for the sake of learning more about reader expectations but I hadn’t thought of pairing them with foods before 🙂

    You ought to check out this book by Herta B. Feely, an anthology of different author’s works written in response to the James Frey controversy — all about reader expectations and challenging reader assumptions. It’s called: “Confessions: Fact or Fiction?” —

    I can’t imagine what meal would go with this one!


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