Book Review: The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

Elizabeth Hadley Richardson was the first wife of author Ernest Hemingway; they married in 1921, after meeting in Chicago.  This historical novel tells her story, the fictionalized account of Ernest and Hadley’s time in Paris during the 1920s.

The Paris Wife

I knew nothing about Hadley Hemingway, but was drawn into the narrative as told by Paula McLain.  Their marriage was tumultuous, with all the usual troubles of newlyweds, including money troubles and issues associated with finding your own way in the world.  Hemingway was a heavy drinker, and the two regularly drank and fought.  Hadley struggled to find her way in a marriage where she felt overshadowed by Hemingway’s larger than life personality. 

The novel details the period when Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises, arguably his most famous novel.  The couple traveled to Pamplona, Spain several times, while he is researching and writing the book.

The two genuinely loved each other, but this novel explores the very real problem of love not being enough. 

I appreciated McLain’s writing style, and the fact that while fiction, she adhered to what is known about Hadley and her marriage to Hemingway.  I was drawn into her life, the trials she faced, and her strength in adversity.

Note: A Moveable Feast, a memoir of Hemingway’s life in Paris in the 1920s, chronicles the period when he was married to Hadley Richardson, and she was included in the book.  It was published posthumously in 1964, by Hemingway’s fourth wife Mary.  I might have to dig up a copy!

5 stars.



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