Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

In one of my high school honors English classes, we had to read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I'm a very studious person and have always taken academics very seriously. I absolutely could not get into Hemingway's writing style. The book was assigned during spring break and I tried several times throughout that week to read it, but just couldn't. I used SparkNotes to get the basic story line and dreaded going to English class. Turns out I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand Hemingway's style, and we all got in trouble for not reading the book. Because of this, my only experience with Hemingway, I've vehemently avoided his works.

I just finished The Paris Wife by Paula McClain. This is an excellent book and while it is categorized as historical fiction, McClain drew on primary and secondary sources and accurately portrays the turbulent relationship between Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, who narrates the story. The two married young and struggled from the beginning while Hemingway launched his career, jumped between jobs, and the couple moved to Paris. Paris in the 1920s was the playground for anyone who was someone. Painters, writers, and intellects lived, worked, loved, drank and gambled in the City of Light. Many of them produced some of the most famous artwork (Picasso, Matisse, Man Ray, Dali) and literature (Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein, Hemingway) history has seen. Among fellow members of the Lost Generation, Hemingway flourished and his career exploded. He and Hadley had their only child, Bumby. The couple traveled throughout Europe, spending exorbitant amounts of time in Spain, where Hemingway loved watching bullfights and recording what he witnessed. Although they seemed to be very much in love and the best partners among their friends, the couple's marriage deteriorated and the two eventually divorced.

This novel reminded me of Nancy Horan's 2007 book Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright and his affair with his mistress Mamah Borthwick. If you're in the mood for a historical read, I highly recommend both of these novels. Loving Frank has a twist at the end that I still think about--five years after I read the book. 

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