Beyond Mr. Darcy: Romantic Historical Fiction discussion

The Paris Wife
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Group Reads 2014 > January 2014: The Paris Wife

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Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Discussion Questions

1.In many ways, Hadley's girlhood in St. Louis was a difficult and repressive experience. How do her early years prepare her to meet and fall in love with Ernest? What does life with Ernest offer her that she hasn't encountered before? What are the risks?

2.Hadley and Ernest don't get a lot of encouragement from their friends and family when they decided to marry. What seems to draw the two together? What are some of the strengths of their initial attraction and partnership? The challenges?

3. Hadley and Ernest's marriage survived for many years in Jazz-Age Paris, an environment that had very little patience for monogamy and other traditional values. What in their relationship seems to sustain them? How does their marriage differ from those around them? Pound's and Shakespeare's? Scott and Zelda's?

4. One of the most wrenching scenes in the book is when Hadley loses a valise containing all of Ernest's work to date. What kind of turning point does this mark for the Hemingway's marriage? Do you think Ernest ever forgives her?

5. Most of THE PARIS WIFE is written in Hadley's voice, but a few select passages come to us from Ernest's point of view. What impact does getting Ernest's perspective have on our understanding of their marriage? How does it affect your ability to understand him and his motivations in general?


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
I am looking forward to reading this book. I read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald a few months ago and there was quite a bit about the Hemingways in that book.


April (AJoyS) | 129 comments I also read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.


message 5: by April (last edited Jan 05, 2014 02:21PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

April (AJoyS) | 129 comments I have few minutes to answer some questions, I think I will tackle #4 and #5.
4. I think this is turning point for both Hadley and Ernest in their marriage. I feel that this was when Hadley really comes to grip with the fact that Ernest's writing is more important to him the her or Bumbie. I think it also a turning point for Ernest in that he lose the sense that Hadley is around only to do what is in his best interest.
5. Some of my favorite passage in the book are when we see a situation from Ernest and Hadley' s view points. The impact for me was seeing how very different two people can view the same situation. It some sense we can see how men think about things differently than women, but more importantly we learn that everyone perceives things in different ways. Sorry I only answered two questions but I couldn't think of intelligent answers to the others. I look forward to reading everyone else's answers.


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
1. Hadley had a very strict upbringing and her health issues meant she spent a lot of time indoors. I think Ernest offered her adventure and a life away from the obligations of home. What she risked was losing her identity to that point and the fear of the unknown.

2. I think Hadley was drawn to Ernest because of his sense of adventure and the fact that he was something new and different in her life. Ernest was drawn to Hadley because of her interest in his work and that unlike most of the other people in their circle, she hadn't known him his whole life. One of the big challenges facing them was the age difference. They were over 10 years apart in age and I think Hadley had some doubts about how well it would work out with a younger man. I think one of the greatest strengths at that point in their relationship was their ability to communicate their feelings and fears to one another.

3. I think what sustained them in Paris at first is the fact that they were outcasts in the city. They did not have the money to run with the likes of the Fitzgeralds and the Pounds and that made them rely on each other. Also both of them (not just Hadley) seemed a bit "Victorian" in their morals at the beginning. All of this seemed to change once Hemingway met with some success.

4. Much like April said I felt that Hadley losing the valise pointed out to Ernest that his work was not the all-consuming passion to Hadley that it was to him. I think Ernest forgave her and made his peace with the loss and at some points in the book it felt like he almost thought it was better that he had to go back to square 1 with his writing.

5. I was actually surprised to find the passages written from Ernest's point of view. It's not usual in a book like this. I think I did start to feel a bit more sympathetic towards what he had gone through during the war. I don't think this excuses what he did with Pauline but it does give a glimpse into his thought processes.


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
If you like this book try:

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

The Aviator's Wife

These are both from around the same time period and deal with some of the same issues. I enjoyed both of them quite a bit.


April (AJoyS) | 129 comments I have read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and The Aviator's Wife is on my TBR list.


Laurie (lauigl) | 28 comments I just finished the book and would like to comment on question 4. When I read that Hadley had lost the valise I was expecting a much more dramatic response from Ernest. I think he took it very well, at least that's how it came across to me in the book. I also agree that it was though Hadley's losing his material forced him to begin again, and that it was almost beneficial that the whole thing happened. In the end, however, when we read Ernest's viewpoint I think he took it harder than it was portrayed earlier on in the book.


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Laurie wrote: "I just finished the book and would like to comment on question 4. When I read that Hadley had lost the valise I was expecting a much more dramatic response from Ernest. I think he took it very wel..."

I was expecting a dramatic response from Ernest too and was surprised that he took the loss of his work so well at least outwardly.


Laurie (lauigl) | 28 comments Christie wrote: "Laurie wrote: "I just finished the book and would like to comment on question 4. When I read that Hadley had lost the valise I was expecting a much more dramatic response from Ernest. I think he t..."

This is my answer to question 2.

2. I think it was good timing that brought Ernest and Hadley together. Ernest was young and a little unsure of himself as far as his writing was concerned. He was mentally tormented by the accident he'd sustained, and he didn't particularly care for his mother. Hadley was an older woman and a late bloomer because of her own accident which consequently lead to a sheltered life. The death of her sister also necessitated something new and exciting to cling to. She was ready for a little adventure by the time she met Ernest, but she was also a loyal, supportive kind of woman, which was just what he needed at the time. I think the challenge was the age difference and their choice of associates. Their "friends" had a negative influence on their relationship which lead to their demise.


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