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The Paris Wife: A Novel | [Paula McLain]

The Paris Wife: A Novel

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet 28eight-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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (1913 )
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  •  
    mary Sewickley, PA, United States 05-25-11
    mary Sewickley, PA, United States 05-25-11

    pmg-fan

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    "Enjoyed the book, loved the narrator"

    I am an avid reader, but not a big Hemingway fan, so I didn't know what to expect from this novel. I found it to be a believable tale of "the wife behind the great man," told from the perspective of the wife. The author does an admirable job of creating suspense and action, even though the reader knows from the outset that separation and divorce and even worse await this loving couple. She also does a good job of giving life to the post-World War I lifestyle and culture of two expats with a thirst for adventure and the drive to seek it out.
    As to the narrator, I disagree with those who have been critical of her. While I acknowledge that the "voice" she used for Hadley's direct quotes was too stereotypically high pitched and whiney, I thought she was a lovely reader, with an interesting "gruffness" for Hemingway and a calming style that made me look forward to my daily commute so that I could enjoy her calming voice. Bravo!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rosalind Seattle, WA, United States 05-22-11
    Rosalind Seattle, WA, United States 05-22-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    Overall
    "terrible"

    The dialogue between hemmingway and his wife seemed like a bad romance novel. The characters were shallow and predictable. I couldn't even get through the whole book...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    stacyalex 04-13-11
    stacyalex 04-13-11 Member Since 2009
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    "Fantastic story!"

    I thought it was a beautiful love story and became lost in their lives instantly - the nights in Paris drinking absinthe, the ski and beach holidays all over Europe, the caviar and champagne in the afternoon with the Fitzgeralds, and their intellectual banter.. it all seemed just like it might have been. I missed their world when the book ended.. its been almost two weeks and I can still hear Carrington's voice in my head.. and I wish the story could have continued!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Sunland, CA, United States 04-10-11
    Mary Sunland, CA, United States 04-10-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A great opportunity wasted."

    While historically interesting, the over-consumption of alcohol seemed to be more the focus of this novel than the characters themselves. The concept of this novel was such a good opportunity to build upon the complexities of Hemmingway's personality and all the odd-ball characters that he surrounded himself with but every character (including Hemmingway's) seemed one dimensional and lifeless. And, the narrator's depiction of Hadley was awful - it was just not believable that she was a stupid, blind fool on one hand yet a confident socially astute woman on the other. The narrator made her sound like a whiny & whimpering child. The one thing this novel did inspire in me is a desire to learn more about Hemmingway --- he certainly couldn't have been as flat and boring in real life as he was characterized in this novel. The beginning of this novel was so promising, the middle so boring and the end so predictable. . .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Columbus, NE, United States 03-12-11
    Jason Columbus, NE, United States 03-12-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A delight for Hemmingway fans"

    If you've read Hemmingway, you'll find a this book of his life a poinient broken mirror in many pieces depecting many events from his novels in his real life through the eyes of his wife. Beautifully painted famous characters and scenes from Chicago to France among others!

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Covington, WA, United States 03-09-11
    Susan Covington, WA, United States 03-09-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Just not that interesting."

    Kept waiting for the story to have some substance but just dragged along. Finally gave up,

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pegeen United States 04-05-12
    Pegeen United States 04-05-12 Member Since 2011

    reading is pure joy

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "not sure any reader could rescue this"

    dropping literary names does not a novel make -- and the reader did not help the cause. The writer TOLD us most of the time, doing a poor Hemingway imitation, starting 1/2 way thru the book . Things are all fine and good and strong.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tanya RICHMOND, VA, United States 01-13-12
    Tanya RICHMOND, VA, United States 01-13-12

    rare online shopper

    ratings
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    1
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    Story
    "Part missing.."
    What did you like best about The Paris Wife? What did you like least?

    I did really like the story and the setting. However, knowing that I was getting near the end, I knew the story wasn't going to be complete and it said that this was just one part, so didn't get to hear the end and it wasn't listed as to how to find the other part. Any recommendation as to how to get


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Hadley


    Did The Paris Wife inspire you to do anything?

    travel to Paris


    Any additional comments?

    just help me acquire the end of the story.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 04-06-11
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 04-06-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "No depth of character"

    I stopped listening to this book a little over half way through the first part. I enjoyed listing to what was going on in her life in the States - where she was living her own life. It was a horrible life, to be sure, but lots was going on, she was climbing out of it into a new life.

    In Paris, where everything was going on, she was unable to make a life of her own, but was only someone else's wife!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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