Liza Martin's Reviews > The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
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Apr 27, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

Written carefully with lovely prose, Paula McClain's debut novel examines the marriage of the writer Ernest Hemmingway to his first wife Hadley, or "The Paris Wife."

The story, which mostly takes place in Paris after WWI, is told through the eyes of Hadley, and I began to dislike her by the time I was a 1/3 of the way through the book. I thought it was perhaps because she didn't have a real passion of her own or life outside of being Ernest's constant cheerleader, or that everything happened TO her and all she did was report it. I would have grown to hate her if it wasn't for the realization that she was conveying her experiences with Ernest how he himself was trying to write his books: distilling life down to its purest form by simply saying what happened, and not telling the reader how to feel.

Taken like that, the story -- and everything in it -- is beautiful, if not heart wrenching. All of it: her marriage. Paris in the 20's, when Chanel and smoking and bohemia was burgeoning as the new "cool." The art. The relationships. The end.

Alongside the narrative, I really felt like I was in the places Hadley and Ernest lived and visited, such as Paris, Spain, the Swiss Alps, Italy, and even Chicago. McClain makes each city its own, and she nails it. I've also got to mention that the cast of characters Hadley and Ernest meet and take as friends are exciting in their own right. In this book you'll meet Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and many others.

I would recommend this novel to any reader who's interested in Ernest Hemmingway, "The Lost Generation," Europe's artistic culture after WWI, or those who just enjoy a good read.
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message 1: by Pat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pat she was a woman of her time unfortunately. no more, no less, but strong enough to survive the emotional devastation of her one true mission.


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