Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 -

Paris in July 2019 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea 

Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016
  8. Cheri by Colette- 1920
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 - Hemingway’s first marriage

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was a New York Times best seller.  It is an imaginative recreation of the relationship of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, who would be one of four, Hadley Richardson.  When they meet Ernest is 20 and Hadley 28.  I admire some of Hemingway’s work but I have always found his public testosterone fired persona to be overcompensating so I was looking forward to seeing how McLain would present him.  

We see them meet, develop a relationship and against the advise of Hadley’s sister, marry.  It was Ernest’s dream to move to Paris to write.  We see them struggle to get by on her trust fund income of $2000.00 a year and his earnings as a journalist.  Both are  serious drinkers.  Ernest drinks to relax and Hadley joins him.  They meet other famous expat writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife Zelda, Gertrude Stein who seems like a mother figure to Ernest, Ford Madox Ford and Janes Joyce.  Paris in the early 1920s attracted many idol rich with literary pretensions. Ernest like to box with his male friends and is quoted as saying he does not trust people who don’t get drunk.

They go to the famous running of the bulls festival Pamplona Spain and to some bull fights.  Ernest talks about how beautiful this all was, I found it repulsive and stupid.

In the character depicted by McLain, I did not sense much literary genius.  I knew the relationship would fail and I did feel bad for Hadley.

I found the best part of The Paris wife for me was in the famous people we encounter.  I got bored with Hadley, as did Ernest.  I enjoyed hearing about the rest of Hadley’s life, she tells the story, and her happy thirty five year second marriage. She gives us a brief account of Ernest’s post divorce from her life which was interesting.

I acquired this book in Kindle format during a flash sale for $1.95, it is now priced at $11.95.

Obviously many loved this book.  I found the use of slang from the 1920s distracting, the almost fawning over the rich tiresome.  The wellsprings of Ernest’s best work are not at all illuminated. Hadley seems almost like a once sheltered girl having a fling with a bad boy, a macho drunk.

I cannot  endorse the purchase of this books to those I do not know.

It was fun to see McLain try to deal with young Hemingway.

Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress–before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996.

She is the author of The Paris Wife, a New York Times and international bestseller, which has been published in thirty-four languages. The recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is also the author of two collections of poetry; a memoir, Like Family, Growing up in Other People’s Houses; and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives with her family in Cleveland.  From The website of Paula McLain


Arti said...

I read this book a few years back and I'd appreciated how McLain put forth Hadley's point of view, such that she's no longer 'the silent wife'. Also, from this book I learned that the Hemingways went to Toronto, Canada, to give birth to their child for its better health care and hospitals. So when I actually went to the Hemingway's apartment and took a few photos of it. :)

Carola Bartz said...

That is a very interesting post/review you have been writing. I sometimes thought I would like to read the book, but so far never have - mainly because I am not a big Hemmingway fan.

Mel u said...

Arti.thanks for your comment. It would be fascinating to see similar works from The perspectives of The other three wifes.

Mel u said...

Carlola Bartz.thanks for your comment. Without an interest in Heminway, you may not get into this book.

Tamara said...

Mel U, I so used to you reading the classics, this is a different book for you - yet still it's connected to the classics isn't it.. good review. thanks for sharing.