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Editorial 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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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Narration Issues

I really wanted to love this story of fiction about real people and at first I thought that it was going to be a great. Then, very quickly, I started to notice that the forceful, over the top narration was distracting me from the writing. I was overpowered by the voices and my mind wandered from what the narrator was saying to how she was saying it. I could not follow and enjoy the story. It was so strange. I think the only way I will be able to get past chapter three is if I read the book in print. In a way the book felt like it was for the young adult audience. Maybe that was just because the narration sounded so juvenile. Giving up.

39 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Karla
  • Eugene, OR, United States
  • 01-12-12

Couldn't get past the reader

Is this a good book? I'm struggling to decide if I liked it or not. The reader really ruined it for me. She made the characters sound like cartoon characters in a goofy sitcom. Her attempts to sound masculine made me cringe. Perhaps she would be more suited to reading humor or juvenile fiction. I found myself trying to imagine the words read differently...more what I think the author intended, so that I could enjoy the story more. And this was very distracting. I really enjoy reading historical fiction, but I'm not sure if this is one to recommend. Was it as empty and flat as it seemed? Maybe. It kept going through my mind that I was reading fluff, but it could have been the reader that gave me that impression.

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Emily
  • Fitchburg, WI, United States
  • 06-06-12


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!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Taryn
  • Suffern, NY, United States
  • 07-07-12


I first tried the book version of Paris Wife and could not get into it. Since I had to "read" it for my bookclub I decided to try audible. I saw the negative reviews on the narrator but forged ahead anyway. I agree that she was hard to listen to, but I couldn't read the hard copy either, so it wasnt the reader that made it intolerable for me. What is it that has made this book so popular? I guess it is just the fascination with Hemingway and the time period. I enjoyed the movie, Midnight in Paris, so I thought I would enjoy this. Instead I found it boring, boring and more boring. I couldn't listen past the first 4 hrs. I tried but it was a waste of time. I just couldn't like or empathize with any of the characters, they were all self-indulgent elitist snobs who acted like spoiled children. I am sure most people will not agree with me, but I really disliked this book.

37 of 42 people found this review helpful

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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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good book, not so good reader

As a fan of Ernest Hemingway, I was really looking forward to this book. Several chapters in, I realized that I was not enjoying it. I soon realized that it was not the book itself, but the reader that was getting in my way. Carrington MacDuffie reads this book with a cultured tone that softens the edges of Ernest and his macho friends, and gives a simpering, whiney tone to Hadley. I wish I had chosen to read the book instead.

44 of 51 people found this review helpful

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Good book, terrible narration

Like others have noted, I was distracted from narrative by the prissy and juvenile tone that MacDuffie imparted. I found myself rethinking the lines as she spoke them with how I might have actually read the lines myself. It was like listening to two books simultaneously. I'll stay away from this narrator in the future but not the author.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good Story - Poor Reader

Excellent fictional insight - terrible reader. I went out and bought the book in lieu of listening past Chapter 4. A wasted credit.

39 of 46 people found this review helpful

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A big yawn

Would you try another book from Paula McLain and/or Carrington MacDuffie?


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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent listen!

I don't have much to add to the previous review. But the genre of fiction "based on" fact is an interesting one, probably challenging for the writer. What to leave in, what to leave out, etc. This book inspired me to research Hemingway for more details on his fantastic, adventurous life.

This could be the start of a possible series on the Hemingway wives and the transitions amongst them.

26 of 33 people found this review helpful