Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: A Paris Wife by Paula McLain

This was a book club pick. Though I owned this book I likely would never have read it had it not been picked to read for book club. In fact, I didn't read my copy but listened to it on audiobook. [Click here for the Goodreads page.]

Paula McLain tells the story of Elizabeth "Hadley" Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife and, some would say, the love of his life. Ernest was a dynamic, moody writer who was young and on his way to being one of the most famous American writers in history. He was war- torn, young, impulsive, and a bit of a lady's man. Hadley was older and in some ways wiser, but also dreadfully sheltered and horribly naive; she's never had a real boyfriend and she's reaching old maid status at a ripe 29 years old. They each had strained and damaging relationships with their parents and families with suicide histories. When they meet, it is instant sparks. They get to know each other initially through their correspondence, which the author reviewed before writing this text.

Hadley is Ernest's FIRST wife, so we know right away that the marriage is not going to endure. We're given hints, too, that another woman will come between them. But it is not Pauline who is the downfall of Hadley's marriage. It is Hadley's realization that she deserves more from love than Ernest can give her. Her story is one of growth and strength. Luckily for Ernest, it was not one of experience with a fire arm because he was trying to get jacked up... but I digress...

The sentiment of the book group was mixed. I think that I liked it the least, but I tend toward more fantastical beasts than Ernest Hemingway. It was a good pick for a group discussion because adding the readers' perspectives to those of the author and the characters always leads to "hmmm, I didn't think about it that way" moments. For example, love doesn't look or mean the same to everyone. Discuss.

The best part of this book was the interactions that the Hemingways had with other members of the writing socialites, like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (whose world wind marriage last longer than all of Ernest's combined!).

Ultimately, this book is well written and I was a bit hard on it (3 out of 5 goodreads stars), mostly because I don't actually care at all about Ernest Hemingway. But don't let that stop you! It's got a 3.77 overall rating.

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