Book Recommendation: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
There’s no denying Ernest Hemingway’s enormous influence on American literature. Few writers have singlehandedly changed the way we think about such heady topics as language and war. But his reputation as a writer is nearly eclipsed by his reputation as a man: a swaggering, moody genius who held court with some of the greatest literary minds of his generation over absinthe in the street cafes of Paris. I have loved Hemingway’s writing since I first cracked open For Whom The Bell Tolls, so I was eager to read about this mysterious man from the point of view of his first wife, who narrates The Paris Wife.
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Though The Paris Wife is a piece of historical fiction, I welcomed the insight—however fabricated—into this complex and incredible mind. Unfortunately, I felt that I gained more insight into the psyche of his wife, who is constantly struggling with Hemingway’s fleeting inspiration, roving eyes, and fondness for anything (especially in a bottle) that will keep his psychic demons at bay.
Hadley is a solid, Midwest-raised girl, who falls in love with Ernest quickly and completely. When his career aspirations and the lure of Europe beckon him overseas, she eagerly agrees, though it means the start of a completely new life for the young couple. Author Paula McLain captures Hadley’s reservations well; as a twenty-something, I can identify with the struggle between one’s roots and one’s wings or dreams. Her hopes for an idyllic life in Paris are constantly tested by the realities of Ernest’s personality, and she is forced into situations that test her strength as a woman, wife, and mother.
To my dismay, much of the book was devoted to Hadley’s internal conflicts. Each time Ernest entered the narrative, with a new composition for her to read or with a suggestion that they meet friends for meals and bull-fighting in Spain, I wanted him to stay on the page a bit longer, to peek behind the heavy eyelids and inscrutable face and glimpse the man’s inner workings. Each time, I was left disappointed when he made an all-too-abrupt, cold exit. Perhaps, though, this was McLain’s intent. After all, even his own wife would have killed for just a bit more access to this eccentric genius.
Intrigued? Try the non-traditional salad nicoise inspired by The Paris Wife.
Source: I bought the book at Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview. They always have awesome books and the staff has great recommendations.