It’s 1920 in Chicago, and the parties are swinging, but 28-year-old Hadley Richardson has nearly given up on finding love and a happy marriage. The tides turn when she meets a young Ernest Hemingway, who sweeps her off her feet. After a whirlwind marriage, they marry and move to Paris, where they fall in with an artistic crowd later known as the Lost Generation.
The Paris Wife is the story of Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, during their time in Paris. Through her perspective, we experience the wild parties of the 20s and get to know some of the Jazz Age’s major figures, including Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound.
Books with the word “wife” in the title are a pet peeve of mine (The Paris Wife, The Pilot’s Wife, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Tiger’s Wife, to name a few), but I enjoyed this novel. Paula McLain breathes life into a woman known primarily for her relationship with a famous author.
I listened to the audiobook in November 2013, and it was actually my inspiration for Jazz Age January. Listening to this book made me really curious about the era and it’s players, and I wanted to learn more! Now, having read A Moveable Feast (review coming next week), it’s really interesting to think about The Paris Wife in its historical context. Many of the incidents described in McLain’s novel are present in Hemingway’s work, and it’s interesting to read them from Hadley’s perspective. Reading this novel actually helped me interpret A Moveable Feast; I don’t know if it’s because Hemingway’s book was unfinished or because it’s just his writing style, but he left a lot of things out. He would refer to certain things, like returning from Toronto after their child Bumby’s birth without ever having mentioned they went to Toronto. Had I not read The Paris Wife, which follows a similar time-line, I would have been confused.
I really enjoyed The Paris Wife, especially as a companion text to A Moveable Feast. It helped me make sense of some of the events, and it was interesting to read about Hemingway and other famous authors of the time from Hadley’s perspective. It was also nice to read more about Hadley, a fascinating woman and the heroine of A Moveable Feast.
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