The Bibliophiliac’s Corner: “The Paris Wife”
By Amanda Merriman
Connection writer Amanda Merriman admits she is hopelessly addicted to books. It has been this way nearly all her life. Every month she shares what she has been reading with the hope that others will share in the obsession too.
I dug into Paula McLain’s 2011 bestseller, “The Paris Wife,” as I do with a number of novels. A friend spoke highly of it and after glancing at the cover, I was intrigued. My dear hubby and I will be taking a trip to Paris this fall, and that sealed the deal for me.
The story is a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage from the viewpoint of his wife, Hadley Richardson. When Hadley met Hemingway, she was a young woman in the midst of trying to find herself and break free from a difficult childhood. Hadley was ripe for the picking. Their love story seemed already written in the stars. Though I knew it would end badly, I felt compelled to read it anyway. The 1920s fascinate me, as does Paris. Living life on the cheap, in a boozy and creative haze, seems so tragically artsy. Seeing the literary giants from this time through Hadley’s eyes was also an interesting angle.
At times, the story was frustrating. I felt like I wanted to shake Hadley out of her blindness and instill a sense of self-esteem in her. Hemingway’s boorish moments were tiresome. Their friends were not without their own deep-seated issues. Even as I had these frustrations, the character’s lives seemed more human, complete with all their flaws. I found myself understanding that at least a part of Hadley’s inaction was due to the time she lived in. My eyes filled with tears when Hadley could no longer hide from the truth and realized her marriage was over.
One could argue that their marriage had a good run, despite fame and living in the Jazz-Age of Paris. Readers could even possibly feel a small amount of fleeting sympathy for Hemingway, learning more of his background. As someone who has not read any of Hemingway’s novels, I came to this story without any preconceived notions. Instead, I wanted to research and distinguish between the historical and fictional parts of their story. I plan on reading Hemingway’s novel, “A Moveable Feast,” which chronicles the same period of time. Fans of McLain’s writing may be compelled to read her most recent work titled “Love and Ruin,” which tells the story of Hemingway and his third wife.
Fellow bibliophiles and book club members, feel free to join in the dialogue. Blog your thoughts and feedback at www.castlepinesconnection.com and enter the keyword “bibliophiliac” in the search bar. Have you read a great book recently? Email your find to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.