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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 (1972 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Michele Richards Encinitas, CA 05-15-12
    Michele Richards Encinitas, CA 05-15-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A big yawn"
    Would you try another book from Paula McLain and/or Carrington MacDuffie?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    So boring and poorly written. I think it made it worse that it was an audible. It somehow made it even more clear to me how poorly written it was. Waste of time.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Irene Krenzke Houston, Texas USA 10-24-11
    Sarah Irene Krenzke Houston, Texas USA 10-24-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Interesting and entertaining, well read"

    I really enjoyed this book and find it hard to understand why so many reviewers criticize the reader. I think she does an excellent job and her voice for Hadley and others in the book fits the time period perfectly. The story is fiction but appears to be very much based on fact. It's a fascinating look at an era and many famous characters, such as F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein etc.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    04-24-11
    04-24-11 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Overall, quite good...."

    I found I struggled a little after about the half way point because not a lot seemed to be happening. Once I finished the book, I realized that there was a great deal happening in a subtle way! I really enjoyed this book. Carrington MacDuffie was extremely easy to listen to and to believe!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joy Laurel, MD, United States 04-12-11
    Joy Laurel, MD, United States 04-12-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Hummm....The Paris Wife"

    Slow....interesting, but I found myself drifting off thinking about other things while listening. There wasn't enough movement in the story. There was no noticeable growth...not really. I wanted an exciting read. It wasn't.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen 03-18-11
    Kathleen 03-18-11
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    "Wonderful novel, sad to read"

    I liked the perspective of the story being written from Hadley Hemmingway's point of view. As with many geniuses, Earnest Hemmingway was a troubled man and those around him were made to suffer too. Though this is a fictional autobiography, I found it to be enlightening and very enjoyable.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Brinkman 01-23-12
    J. Brinkman 01-23-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good story, awful narration"

    Echoing what's been said before, the narration unfortunately ruins the book. If you know the story of Hadley and Hem, it's fraught with melancholy that simply can't be communicated by the narrator. Most of her sentences end with a slight raising of the voice, making each line sound as if it's completely shocking and possibly the punchline of terrible joke. It reminds me of the way a mother would read to a child - over-animated and juvenile. This is coupled with what I think of as a "Connecticut Boarding School" tone of voice that is very affected. The story is good, but almost impossible to enjoy in this format.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane 04-03-13
    Diane 04-03-13
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    "More Biography than Novel"

    I like biographies, and this book was more like a biography than a novel to me. The author displayed some bright moments in the writing style in some descriptions. Otherwise, it didn't stir much emotion in the writing. What grated on me was nearly every conversation began or ended with "she said" "he said" "I said." I can't remember the author using other words that described *how* something was said. The narrator was the only clue to emotion. I still wasn't thrilled with the narrator. She did well enough for the most part; but during some conversations, the only way I could differentiated between the speakers was those dreaded words "she said" "I said" and yes, even "he said."

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Fitchburg, WI, United States 06-06-12
    Emily Fitchburg, WI, United States 06-06-12
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    "Horrible"
    Would you try another book from Paula McLain and/or Carrington MacDuffie?

    I would not try another book by either McLain or MacDuffie. The narrator definitely ruined the story for me and I wasn't very impressed in the first place with the strength of the writing.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The narrator's style was very much like a parent reading a fairy tale to a toddler. It was horrible. She made the character's dialogue sound like high school drama students. This was especially disappointing considering one of the main characters is Ernest Hemingway!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Atlanta, GA, United States 05-16-12
    Melissa Atlanta, GA, United States 05-16-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Hemingway comes to life"

    Before I read this book, I knew nothing about Ernest Hemingway's early adult life, and this was a great way to discover it. I particularly enjoyed the point of view from which the story is told (Hemingway's first wife) and thought the narrator's voice suited Hadley well. Early in the book, it was easy to understand the mutual attraction, and I realized that I too could have fallen in love with the young writer, so it was with dread that I recognized the early signs of his decline as the book progressed. This was a fascinating time in American literary history, and McLain did an excellent job of bringing it to life.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarena Garrison, NY, United States 02-22-12
    Sarena Garrison, NY, United States 02-22-12 Member Since 2004

    I'm the author of the book "Bronx DA" and an attorney.

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    "The Book and the Characters Lack Depth"

    I was not very bothered by the narrator of this book, but I was bothered by the superficial nature of the story and the characters. I never felt like I got to know or care about the people in this book or what happened to them. It all felt very superficial. The book was trying to be something that didn't quite succeed - like it was trying to be a Gatsby but missed the mark - for me, by a lot.

    In reading the other reviews, I wonder if I would have felt differently had I read the book and not listened to it. I did not feel like the narrator was that bad but perhaps her reading of the book gave it the superficial feel, but I don't think so. Unlike another reviewer, I did not feel like Hadley was strong or interesting or that I even was able to sympathize with her plight.
    In fact, by the end of the book, I did not feel like I knew her, or Hemingway or anyone else at all.

    What the book did accomplish was making me want to go back and read The Sun Also Rises - I hope that reading the book that Hemingway wrote about this same time period will tell me a lot more about the characters than Paula McLain did.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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