If what they say is true that behind every great man there’s a great woman then Hadley Richardson is the woman behind Ernest Hemingway. In the novel The Paris Wife, Paula McLain traces their relationship from its frowned-upon beginnings in Chicago to its painful end in Paris six years later, and narrator Carrington MacDuffie brings a cast of historical characters out of the required reading list and brightly to life.
Hemingway was a journalist and aspiring novelist when he met Hadley in 1920, and after they married, they moved together to Paris at the urging of author Sherwood Anderson, who told them it was the place to be for writers. Over the next half-decade except for one brief stint in Toronto after the birth of their son the Hemingways lived, loved, and drank with everyone from James Joyce and Gertrude Stein to Ezra Pound and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (all of whom MacDuffie voices captivatingly). But though their relationship seemed rock-solid to even the closest members of their inner circle, outside forces slowly chipped away at the life they’d built together.
Hemingway spent the whole of his marriage to Hadley working on his novels including some early drafts of the Nick Adams stories and the piece that would become The Sun Also Rises and The Paris Wife lets the twin plots of his career and their marriage unfold. Hadley, who narrates much of the book, is a reliable and relatable character, and MacDuffie gives her the range of maturity, emotion, and strength that she undoubtedly had. The Hemingway connection may draw in curious fans and avid literature buffs, but her gentle voice and easy manner will keep listeners hooked. Blythe Copeland
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet 28-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises.
Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold onto her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
©2011 Paula Mclain (P)2011 Random House
"The Paris Wife is mesmerizing. Hadley Hemingway’s voice, lean and lyrical, kept me in my seat, unable to take my eyes and ears away from these young lovers. Paula McLain is a first-rate writer who creates a world you don’t want to leave. I loved this book." (Nancy Horan, New York Times best-selling author of Loving Frank)
"After nearly a century, there is a reason that the Lost Generation and Paris in the 1920’s still fascinate. It was a unique intersection of time and place, people and inspiration, romance and intrigue, betrayal and tragedy. The Paris Wife brings that era to life through the eyes of Hadley Richardson Hemingway, who steps out of the shadows as the first wife of Ernest, and into the reader’s mind, as beautiful and as luminous as those extraordinary days in Paris after the Great War." (Mary Chapin Carpenter, singer and songwriter)
"McLain offers a vivid addition to the complex-woman-behind-the-legendary-man genre, bringing Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, to life.... The heart of the story - Ernest and Hadley's relationship--gets an honest reckoning, most notably the waves of elation and despair that pull them apart." (Publishers Weekly)
I am a huge fan of Hemingway's, and I've always been fascinated by his first wife, Hadley. I liked this book, but I agree with another reviewer -- I wish I had read it rather than listened to it. The written dialogue is fine, but the narrator reads Hadley's lines as if she were a simpering, airheaded Betty Boop at times. And her imitation of Ernest himself sounds like a kid trying to sound like her father. Very distracting.
Say something about yourself!
It's not just the reader. These characters do not come alive. Even Gertrude Stein & Alice B Toklas are boring. So are Paris, Ernest Hemingway, and for sure Hadley Richardson. I'm disappointed.
Get rid of the Paula McLain.
No, I will avoid it.
Maybe I'd like to look into Ernest Hemmingway's or F Scott Fitzgerald's autobiography.
I found the book boring in places. I really got tired of Paula McLain saying
If you liked Midnight in Paris and want to get a feel for the literary world of ex-pat Paris, then this novel is for you.
I couldn't tell whether this book was written as a romance, or whether it was just narrated like one -- probably both.
This was my book group's choice, and I was looking forward to peeking at the Hemingways' life in Paris in the 20s. I'm sorry I exposed myself to it, because now I fear my view of Hemingway has been poisoned by an amateur with the audacity to put words into Hemingway's mouth. The only antidote is to reread A Moveable Feast.
What was really irksome, though, was the narrator. I will never again subject myself to her reading. It was dripping with syrup, and her attempts at foreign accents were laughable. She reads as though to a child, but I wouldn't let her loose on Dr. Seuss, either. She gets tons or work, though; you've got to give her credit for that.
I never realized before how important the narrator is to interpreting the book. The story is a fascinating insight into the life of Hemingway not presented before, and the author has clearly done her research well. The writing is good although too many of the conversations feel false or too pat. However the narrator's reading of the conversations comes across as a naive first reading of the script. Some the dialogue ends with a period that feels like she's just wrapped a bright bow on a package and given it an approving pat.Hemingway is so large a character, I am certain he would be difficult for anyone to try to capture his voice, but this narrator is clearly not up to it.
While I'm heavily committed to and invested in Audible, I agree with some of the others that this is a book that is probably best read.
I was sucked into the Hemmingway's world while listening to this story, and when it was over, I craved more (so I also purchased The Moveable Feast). I can see the point of some of the reviewers, that the narrator sounded a bit "whiney" at times. Ernest must have rolled over in his grave when he heard her read some of his lines of dialogue. But, it wasn't a constant thing, and did not bother me much at all. Overall, I enjoyed this narration and story very much, and I want to know more about all of the ex-pats in the Jazz Age in Paris - Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, the whole bunch. Would love a recommendation if someone has one.
Really made me reconsider Hemingway and writers of his time. I know I have been touched by this book because it made me want to know as much as I could about the players. I enjoyed it immensely and hated coming to the end of my car rides because it meant turning it off.
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