Admittedly, I have a thing for Hemingway, so I was predisposed to want to read this book. It's a fictional story told through the eyes of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson. Even though it's fictional, however, it's largely grounded in fact: much of this story was covered truthfully through Hemingway's eyes in his last completed book, a memoir of these early years of his career entitled A Moveable Feast. McLain read many, many other bios of both Hadley and Hemingway, as well as scads of their personal letters. It's fiction because it's a story told with Hadley's voice and thoughts and intimate details of daily life that are likely not recorded for posterity anywhere, but the primary details are all true.
I loved this book, and it broke my heart, too. I think I identify a little too much with Hadley. Not surprisingly (to me, anyway), I was half in love with the Ernest Hemingway of the book myself and I think I'm probably a lot like Hadley Richardson, so I felt her anger and frustration and worry and anguish pretty keenly while I was reading. I have always loved Hemingway's writing, found it to be incredibly evocative, and yet knew that the man himself would probably have been infuriating and sad and wonderful all at once. That's certainly the picture painted in the book, so I feel...vindicated somehow, I guess. If you don't care a whit about literary greats or Hemingway in particular or rocky first love stories or the expats of the Roaring '20s or Paris during that time period, you'll find little to care about here. Otherwise, dig in and enjoy being transported to another time.