Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Author:  Paula McLaine
Publisher Format: Ballantine Books (2011), Hardcover, 336 pages 
Subject: Hadley Richardson Hemingway
Setting: Midwest US, Paris, Spain, various Europe
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Public Library
Meet a goal? Yes- Read General Fiction

A nicely written book, nothing special. Written as historical fiction, it tells the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first (he had four!) wife, Hadley Richardson and their five year marriage. It appears to be well-researched and accurate, but the whole story left me depressed, not just about the failed marriage but about the entire life-style.

While Hemingway was gathering "life experiences" for his writing, his wife is often left to her own devices in Paris, with little money, little ambition, and few resources except their group of high-rolling, heavy drinking, party throwing and going friends. The story unfolds mostly through Hadley's eyes and voice, although every once in a while (three or four times total) the reader is suddenly shifted to Ernest's point of view but in the third person. It was a bit scattered, as they rambled over Europe staying in a series of small apartments unless they could find rich friends to put them up. At times, they seemed the ultimate moochers. 

There were skiing, fishing, hiking, drinking, and bull-fighting scenes to do justice to Ernest's well-known life style.  But there were also scenes of incredible insensitivity to spouses, children, and friends.   I did appreciate the author's epilogue which allowed us to see how Hadley's life progressed after her marriage to Hemingway ended. 

Definitely worth reading, but probably not a re-read.  Had I not known before I started reading it, I would never have said this was on several lists of "best of 2011."  IMHO, it was good, but not that good.


  1. I do have the audio version on my iPod so hope to try it sometime as I am a Hemingway fan.

    Hope u r having a great week.

  2. I didn't even think it was that good. Hadley was a spineless yawnfest of a character to me. I couldn't care less about who was sleeping with whom and what they drank. I'm still amazed it's gotten such great reviews.


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