Nathan and I were driving into Denver, Colorado for his work when we stopped by a local Wal-Mart to gather some extra things for our hotel stay. While there we walked by the books I started to pick up and read some of the summaries on the back when one particularly caught my eye called “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain. The booked instantly captured my interest after reading how it was about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson, a small somebody at the time who has “given up on love and happiness” that is until she stumbles upon Ernest. He is working his way into the writing world while not missing a person or a drink at a party. The book takes place in various states and countries but primarily sets itself in Paris, France in the 1920’s. While reading you learn about the free-love and heavy drinking of their time. You become engaged by the ways of the “Lost Generation” group including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. You are drawn into the personal lives and love affairs of Ernest and Hadley, and the book takes you deeply into their feelings of those experiences.
Hadley is someone who has lost her way, not sure where to go from here in life until she meets Ernest at a gathering at well-known friends place. Gatherings like this were almost daily at this time and she loved watching Ernest as he was constantly moving throughout the crowd. She never thought a man like him would be interested in a woman like her because during this time there were so many other intriguing people surrounding them. Despite her doubts their love began to flourish shortly after he asked her to read one of his writings. She assured him she wouldn’t be much help as a critic but he still insisted because he was interested in her opinion. To skip ahead of the story some, they eventually fall in love and move off to Paris where Ernest was assured by many he would find the tools and success he was looking for. They met wonderful people there and gained many lasting friendships that is until there hardships come along towards the end of the book.
Ernest was a man caught in all his own moments and dedicated to his work. He initially falls in love with Hadley in Chicago and even throughout his other marriages his loves continues for her. He experiences the ups and downs of living in the Jazz Age of Paris as a writer. You are taken through not only Hadley’s thoughts but Ernest’s writing and experiences as well.
Together the two are a phenomenal story. You are walked through Hadley’s strong views of being a wife to the point of almost breaking her. You are shown Ernest’s thoughts of how free-loving should be, even if they are married. It’s then when it takes you through the heartbreak of them trying to work those views out and the emotional whirlwind it sends them both spiraling into. In the end they are both still strongly in love but completely moved on. This story also moves you because Ernest later writes “he would rather have died then fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.”
After finishing this book last weekend I found that this is my favorite book! I love the way the “Lost Generation” of the 1920’s captures you and Hadley Richardson’s personality left me inspired. I felt as if I was going through these moments sitting right next to them. You can see the amount of effort Paula McLain put in this book from beginning to end. She does a great job of making sure each piece of history is correct for the story line in the book. She wrote this book beautifully and I am positive I will read it again!
If you’re interested in reading this book, you can buy your copy by clicking the link below.
The Paris Wife