The Paris Wife

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So, I’m a little behind on my reading list but I just finished The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. It was published a couple of years ago, and from what I can glean from Barnes & Noble bookshelves, it was pretty popular. I didn’t know anything about it other than it focused on Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and that it was set in Paris in the 20s – the setting alone was enough for me to buy it.

I wouldn’t say it was a book I couldn’t put down. In fact, I could leave it for days on end, without rushing to its pages, but when I returned to the marriage of Ernest and Hadley, I easily slipped into their world. It was a fascinating read because it is based on real events, and McLain seems to meticulous follow letters and Hemingway’s own writing of the time (A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises capture those years) so that at times I almost felt as if I were reading the truth.

It’s a dangerous thing about novels based on real figures – people mistake fiction for fact and towards the end of the novel when (spoiler alert…except not really if you know anything about the man) Hadley and her darling Hem go their separate ways, I was convinced that that was how it must have happened. I don’t think I realized until it was done how much I had invested in these characters’ marriage, even though I knew from the get go that she was just his ‘first wife, his Paris wife.’ Even though Hadley’s perspective is McLain’s meticulously researched words, it is so absorbing because at its core it is about two people falling in and out of love, while Paris filled with its Zeldas and F. Scotts drunkenly spin around them.