Noor Al-Zubaidi's Reviews > The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
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Apr 09, 12

Read from March 26 to April 07, 2012

I wish it was possible for me to meet Hemingway and his wife, and have a long talk with them. Separately and then together. I have a million question to ask, and I might even get heated up. I'd like to discuss his writing, their relationship, her hopes, his dreams and their Paris. I really liked the first half of the book but afterwards, I started getting emotionally involved. I was angry at Hemingway or Hadley, shifting between one then the other and afterwards angry at both. I don't usually have this type of anger with characters, it's usually frustrations and nothing beyond that. Yet The Paris Wife made me angry so many times, as well as a few smiles and frowns here and there. I think it's the fact that they're not fictional characters, they're real, they went through this and they endured. At least Hadley did, and Hemingway doing his best till he shot himself, always knowing this was how he would go. Imagine that you have Hemingway, his first wife and their life together. Romancing a writer, living in Paris, Hemingway's struggle and how his wife lived through it all. It's just my type of book, but it crushes so many notions you might have before hand. Don't expect a romantic story, and never expect to be told what to think. It doesn't give you Paris at its finest. It gives a sense of realistic Paris. The one where artists drank their hearts out and kept daring each other to outdo each other; writing, boxing, romancing and drinking. But what was scandalous anymore? They all lived on edge, and so there's nothing shocking about the book, at least nothing the writer feels horrified about. She's maybe staying true to her story telling but she made it feel as if you're in the early 20th century with them, as much true emotion is withheld...



The writing isn't among the top of the reasons I loved this book. The writing itself wasn't bad, but it's not something you notice as you read. Perhaps I would have paid more attention to it had I not been so deeply engrossed with the details of their lives and the people they knew. They got to meet the people now considered to be icons in literature including Fitzgerald and Joyce. I loved it when the author delved into that part, how Hemingway was given advice on his writing, how Paris launched his writing career, how difficult it must have been.

I have so many thoughts about this book. Hadley is eight years older, but when she meets Hemingway her life starts. He puts his faith in her and she has to endure the moodiness of a writer, the lonely life it can be and make sure she was there for him every step of the way. Perhaps she just was the Paris Wife and nothing more, who would know for sure?

"Why is it every other person you meet says they're an artist? A real artist doesn't need to gas on about it, he doesn't have time. He does his work and sweats it out in silence, and no one can help him at all."

Hemingway was born to write, and Hadley... she looked for happiness more than anything else.

Why couldn't I be happy? And just what was happiness anyway? Could you fake it, as Nora Bayes insisted? Could you force it like a spring bulb in your kitchen, or rub up against it at a party in Chicago and catch it like a cold?

Maybe happiness was an hourglass already running out, the grains tipping, sifting past each other. Maybe it was a state of mind -as Nora Bayes insisted- a country you could sculpt out of air and then dance into.


"It's freedom you want, then?"
"Good God, yes. Don't you?"
"I don't know. I want to be happy I suppose."
"Happiness is so awfully complicated, but freedom isn't. You're either tied down or you're not."


She thought life began and ended with Hemingway. So much so that when he left for business for the first time, she had no idea what to do with herself. That kind of reliance... it speaks so much of her love for him but she knew not who she was when he was gone. She sacrificed years of her life for him, being desolate in Paris, in company not exactly hers, away from home. She had faith in his writing. She had faith she was enough for him, but who was enough for Hemingway? He was impulsive as a young man and he lived his life that way. She was always wondering if there was more to his love for her than his need for the sense of normal he felt with her.

"I hope we'll get lucky enough to grow old together. You see them on the street, those couples who've been married so long you can't tell them apart. How'd that be?"
"I'd love to look like you," I said. "I'd love to be you."
I'd never said anything truer. I would gladly have climbed out of my skin and into his that night, because I believed that was what love meant. Hadn't I just felt us collapsing into one another, until there was no difference between us?



Both of them angered me at the end. His unfaithfulness, and her acceptance.


There are some who said I should have fought harder or longer for my marriage, but in the end fighting for a love that was already gone felt like trying to live in the ruins of a lost city.


Just what is always and forever? How can we make such promises when change is out of our hands? Why stay if another was making you happy? Why can't one person be enough with all their flaws and imperfections? I don't think it's possible for me to express my feelings towards the end for I would spoil details and I've already said a lot. Can I judge their relationship? Perhaps it was something she lacked, perhaps it was him, perhaps it was both of them. In the end, like the book says:

"Maybe no one can know how it is for anyone else."
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Quotes Noor Liked

Paula McLain
“Why is it every other person you meet says they're an artist? A real artist doesn't need to gas on about it, he doesn't have time. He does his work and sweats it out in silence, and no one can help him at all.”
Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

Paula McLain
“The first time I saw a narcissus pushing through ice and thriving, I thought it was perfect and wanted that kind of determination for myself.”
Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

Paula McLain
“There was no back home any more, not in the essential way, and that was part of Paris too. Why we couldn't stop drinking or talking or kissing the wrong people no matter what it ruined. Some of us had looked into the faces of the dead and tried not to remember anything in particular. Ernest was one of these. He often said he'd died in the war, just for a moment; that his soul had left his body like a silk handkerchief, slipping out and levitating over his chest. It had returned without being called back, and I often wondered if writing for him was a way of knowing his soul was there after all, back in its place. Of saying to himself, if not to anyone else, that he had seen what he'd seen and felt those terrible things and lived anyway. That he had died but wasn't dead any more.”
Paula McLain, The Paris Wife


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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Niledaughter I have this book and I want to know your opinion :)


Noor Al-Zubaidi Amazing. Sorry just saw your comment, you definitely want to read this book. I'll write a proper review soon :)


Niledaughter Noor wrote: "Amazing. Sorry just saw your comment, you definitely want to read this book. I'll write a proper review soon :)"

Great :) I will wait for it .


Noor Al-Zubaidi Check it now :)


Niledaughter you really made me want to read it :)


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