Book Review of Paula McClain's The Paris Wife
by Greta Ulrich
When we think of the writer Ernest Hemingway we think of the brave, swaggering, brilliant man we have always heard that he was. But in Paula McLain’s moving novel The Paris Wife we learn that he was a very complex man of many talents and moods.
McLain based her novel on Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast. The Paris Wife is written from the first person perspective of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. The book begins with Hadley and Hemingway’s courtship in Chicago in the 1920’s. The sense of place of Chicago in the 20’s is enchanting and the description of their romance is touching. Hadley was nine years older than Hemingway and had recently lost her father. Hemingway felt constricted by his domineering mother and was eager for a new life and the two had hopes of building an exciting life together.
After their whirlwind courtship and wedding, the Hemingways moved to Paris where they became friends with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and his wife, Ford Maddox Ford and other assorted American expatriate writers and artists. This was during the Jazz Age of Paris, a heady time between the two world wars. The Hemingways fell in love with the free-spirited, laissez- faire ways of the French but ultimately struggled to stay together as their marriage disintegrated. Hemingway continued to battle his inner demons and struggled to continue writing fiction during a time of great financial worries.
This novel is an interesting depiction of that period and way of life, and also the sights and sounds of Paris in the 20’s. It is also a fascinating glimpse of a great American writer.
The Paris Wife is available for checkout at the Niles Public library District. The library also owns the book in Large Print and in audiobook format.
About this series: Greta Ulrich of the Niles Library reviews books in the library's collection.