Hi, I’m Julie J., a guest blogger of Books in the ‘Burgh (though forgive me for living in Florida and being tan year round). Usually when I read book excerpts in magazines, I have little or no desire to go out and buy the book, that is until I read an excerpt of The Paris Wife. This book is about Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife Hadley. Hadley was 27 to Ernest’s 20 when they met. She was a spinster who took care of her mother until her eventual demise and he was an aspiring writer. Despite the age and personality difference, they marry and move to Paris where Hadley becomes Ernest’s greatest supporter.
The bulk of the book takes place in Paris, where in the 1920s, artists and writers flocked to hone their skills and mentor each other. The atmosphere and lifestyle was very different from the U.S. Hadley, being easy-going and one might say, naive, went along with the progressive nature of Ernest and his friends (Gertrude Stein, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald). They lived in a small flat in Paris and survive on Ernest’s meager wages. They loved each other deeply and experienced a carefree lifestyle that one can only assume existed in Paris in the ’20s. The artists formed their own clique. They critqued each other’s work, vacationed together, ate together, even shared their partners. But, being that Ernest had the typical emotional ups and downs of an “artist” and Hadley, the voice of reason, you can only assume their relationship won’t last.
Throughout the book, Hadley tries her hardest to keep their relationship from falling apart, and for a while you believe they’ll make it. But eventually Ernest’s infidelities prove too much. You will be surprised at how long Hadley sticks around to try and save them; long past the point most women would – even in Paris in the ’20s.
This novel takes you into another world during another time. The most interesting part of this novel, for me, was the fact that it was fiction; but knowing Paula McLain went through hundreds of love letters and did intense research, I closed the book wondering what was real and what was imaginary.