Jill's Reviews > Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife

Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto
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's review
Mar 11, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: bio-memoir-autobio
Read from March 11 to 27, 2012

Why should we, as readers, be the slightest bit interested in Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife?

One might make a convincing case – and Gioia Diliberto certainly does – that Hadley is the archetype for all the women in Hemingway’s literature: Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises, Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, and Maria in For Whom The Bell Tolls. Hadley is the idealized Hemingway woman – stoic, smart, unpretentious, intelligent, devoted, romantic, and wounded.

Many of us received a tantalizing glimpse of her in Paula McLain’s fictional book, The Paris Wife. Ms. Diliberto takes the portrait much further through her exhaustive research into their thrilling and doomed relationship.

In a finely-detailed depiction – to borrow Hemingway’s phrase, one of the “truest” deconstructions of Hadley around, focusing strongly on “innocence lost” – Hadley emerges from the shadows of her far more famous ex-husband and reveals herself to be a fascinating person in her own right.

Ms. Diliberto reveals Hadley’s dysfunctional upbringing, living with her anti-male, strong-willed, manipulative mother and sister, and exploring the commonalities that “twinned” Ernest and Hadley together – the desire to break free of domineering mothers, the fraternal suicides that haunted them, the bouts with depression, the lack of sexual experience, and the overriding love of art.

The author had access to more than one thousand pages of Hadley’s letters to Ernest – as she reveals in her preface – and it shows. This book is not just interpretative but also a revelation of Hadley in her own words – from their separated courtship, their adventures in Paris at the center of the literary expatriates, their baby Bumby, and ultimately, the dissolution of their union as a result of Hemingway’s self-destructive cheating.

“I would never have written any of them In Our Time, Torrents, or The Sun if I had not married you and had your loyal and self sacrificing and always stimulating and loving,” Ernest wrote to Hadley after he left, calling her “the best and truest and loveliest person that I have ever known.” The mind boggles in thinking what he could have created if he had remained with her. Hemingway himself realized it: ‘I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.”

As fascinating as fiction – but so much more powerful because it’s fact – Paris Without End is riveting reading for anyone who wants true insight into Hemingway’s psychodynamics and the female characters he creates. Hadley Richardson is as stunning as any character in fiction, including Hemingway’s own.
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Reading Progress

03/11/2012 "After reading The Paris Wife, I got curious. So far, quite good."
03/08/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Teresa (new) - added it

Teresa Lukey As you know, I loved The Paris Wife and now you've talked me in to adding another must read to my never ending to read list.:)

Jill Well, this one's factual...goes into far more detail than The Paris Wife. I figure if I live to be 110, I MAY just be able to read everything on my shelf, if I'm not senile :)

message 3: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy HAve got The PAris Wife on my wishlist. Will add this, too.

Jill The Paris Wife was fun and breezy reading. This one is non-fiction and really delves into the life of Hadley in a more scholarly (but still engaging) way.

message 5: by Carol (new)

Carol I know I'll want to read it after Paris Wife but really should read it before.

Jill Actually, I'm glad I read Paris Wife first; it gave me some basic background and peaked my interest to want to know MORE. Paris Without End satisfied that need...

message 7: by Jay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jay You might like Lesley Blume's new work " Everybody behaves badly". The focus is not exclusively on Hadley , but the coverage of the Paris years seems to be more authentic.

Jill Thanks, Jay! I've got, like, 250 books on my TBR shelf so it may be a while :) But always appreciate a recommendation.

message 9: by Jay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jay Jill wrote: "Thanks, Jay! I've got, like, 250 books on my TBR shelf so it may be a while :) But always appreciate a recommendation."
I'm, in that same boat. I now admit that I'll never finish the "to read" list before my end of days.

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