The Paris Wife

This is a great read- I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

The Paris Wife is a historical fiction about the marriage between Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway. Hadley was Ernest’s first wife out of four. It is a well-researched book about how they met, their marriage, and the life they created together in Paris in the 1920s when Ernest was still an unknown author.

This is no secret, but Ernest left Hadley for her best friend, Pauline Pfeiffer. The story illustrates the truly complicated nature of their dynamic and how Ernest (a complicated, longsuffering person himself) loved them both. Spoiler alert: he wanted to stay married to Hadley, but have Pauline live with them as his side lover just like one big happy family. (AS IF!) When Hadley wouldn’t go along with it, she told him she’d give him a divorce if he wouldn’t communicate with Pauline for 100 days. (She wanted to see if his feelings for her waned during the time off.)

While it’s easy to hear this set of facts and think “to heck with both of those A@@,” the book illustrates how the affair crushed Hadley because not only was she losing her husband, but she lost her best friend. It also illustrates the pain Pauline felt for being in love with her best friend’s husband while wanting to maintain the friendship. Oh, and that Ernest was sort of a pig.

Some takeaways: love, life, marriage, and fame can be complicated and torturous. Just because someone seems to have it all on the outside doesn’t mean they have it all on the inside.

Ernest- while a gifted author- did not have an easy life. He had a domineering mother and suicide was rampant in his family, with his father, brother, and sister all killing themselves.

Hadley Richardson- while ostensibly pedigreed and coming from good stock- also saw a lot of tragedy. Her father killed himself when she was younger after he lost family money and her pregnant sister died from burns associated with a household fire.

Ernest had problems with alcoholism could never be truly happy. Nothing was ever enough- likely why his marriages never lasted.

During their time in Paris, the Hemingways hobnobbed with famous authors, to include F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby. He was another strange bird.

This is a great gift for history buffs, art buffs, Hemingway fans, etc. 

Have you read this or any of author Paula McLain‘s other work? What did you think?


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