The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Ballantine Books | February 22, 2011
Women's Fiction | Historical
I read THE PARIS WIFE when it was newly released and I remember feeling very infuriated afterwards. Aside from the wonderful cast of literary characters starting with Ernest Hemingway and the infamous Fitzgeralds, this book was a sort of semi-biographical retelling of Ernest and his then wife, Hadley Richardson, when they moved to Paris during the Jazz age. THE PARIS WIFE is a story of love, marriage loyalty, friendship, betrayal, and ambition, and all these were doled out in the superlative. So, I naturally got very invested in the story and finished the book with high emotions, mostly in varying shades of anger.
I'm not familiar with Ernest Hemingway's life story aside from his reputation of being a broken soul and an alcoholic. In retrospect, I think his biography would be a great inspiration for angst-ridden books that a lot of people love to read these days. Anyway, that unfamiliarity is what attracted me to read THE PARIS WIFE. I love fictional biographies because I find outright history boring.
Hadley Richardson. How I loved, pitied, and admired thee. It was with thick rose colored glasses that she married and ran off with Hemingway to Paris. Lived the life of poverty, listened patiently to Ernest's book ideas and the like, doing her darnest to make things work, as Ernest fought off writer's block, gallivanted Paris with the "popular kids", and womanized. Hadley is frickin loyal to a fault, and this part was what infuritated me. She is clearly, someone you want on your side when things are hard, the ideal wife who will be there through thick and thin. A martyr, for sure! Frustrating yet admirable IMO. One's either stupidly in-love or has a strong sense of
skewed honor to stand by a man who treats you like shit! Meanwhile Ernest is just plain stupid, disrespectful, and selfish.
To give you a clue, how about your husband/boyfriend/partner introduce his/her new lover to you while you're still married and expects you to entertain him/her? And their so-called friends? None of them were loyal to Hadley, the poor girl was left to handle her own grief by herself, and look for a salve to mend her broken heart. Speaking of friends, the Fitzgeralds here were portrayed like the Buchanans in The Great Gatsby, annoying, frivolous, and fake, in case you're curious.
As you can see, the years haven't dulled my feelings towards THE PARIS WIFE. The blurb said "evocative" and that's a dire understatement IMO because it was clearly more than that. As for the ending, I can't say I'm fully satisfied with it. Obviously I went all Lorena Bobbit for a bit, and wanted to cut of Ernest Hemingway's penis, and set his mistress on fire. In summary, Ernest was sorry for his actions and deeply regretted how he handled the situation. Hadley, for her part, remained one of Ernest's friend and confidante til the end.
THE PARIS WIFE Fact Check & Hemingway Trivia