** spoiler alert **
This was my book club's pick for the month. It is basically, the story of Ernest Hemingway's "doomed starter wife." It is a fictional memoir written from Hadley's point of view. The book captures her whirlwind romance with the unknown artist and follows the downward spiral as she is cast aside as a supporting character in the larger story of Hemingway. The two strike out as expatriates in Jazz-age Paris and befriend a motley crew of friends with a broad spectrum of morals.
This book was just kind of disturbing. It describes my worst nightmare of a marriage. (Other than a violently abusive marriage.) I knew the train wreck was coming and I just kept reading anyway. Ernest Hemingway is selfish, vain and a terrible husband. Even when McLain is trying to describe the supposed "good times" between Hadley and Ernest it made me slightly sick. Perhaps all great artists need to be tortured and self involved but I don't really believe it. Hadley is a flat character but I did like that her heart breaks a little bit at a time, rather than all at once. I think that is more honest. I think that is the way it really happens although the very end of the book did push me over the edge. The Paris Wife was mildly boring to read but might provide fodder for an interesting discussion on morality and the arts.
**Spoiler Alert** When he chastises Hadley for bringing up his affairs I actually wanted to scream. When Hadley remains friends with the mistress and only slowly removes herself I was ill. When McLain romanticizes the phone call between Hadley and Ernest after Hadley has been married for 35 years to someone else, I actually laughed out loud. Was Hadley truly that self loathing and pathetic? I truly truly hope not. I think McLain has a sick sense of romance.***