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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

the paris wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Unabridged, 11 hr. 27 min.
Random House Audio
Carrington MacDuffie (Narrator)
February 22, 2011

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library

“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.”

This was one of those books that grabbed my attention right from the very start and I did not want to put it down. Then after I finished read it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I have not liked Hemingway’s work or what I have read about the man himself, but boy was this a compelling novel. I had to take some time to let my emotions cool before tackling this review – and it turned into a good six months or more.

The Hemingways relationship was very reminiscent of that of the Fitzgeralds. Not only because they existed relatively within the same sphere, but because they had very similar relationships. Both of the men were unable to really control themselves in the crazy world of the Roaring Twenties; monogamy and family were not their primary focus. Both of the relationships crumbled in the face of that adversity, although these would be the women who would be in their hearts forever.

Hadley had a very difficult relationship with a very difficult man; however she isn’t really a woman to be idolized. I find Hadley and the Hemingways interesting because watching their relationship was like waiting for a train wreck that you knew was coming. You know it just isn’t going to last. Their bad times seemed to just edge out the good ones. She wasn’t a strong woman. Had she been, she might have been able to get the relationship under control, but alas that wasn’t meant to be.

The writing style here was very intriguing. There was an equal amount of introspection on Hadley’s behalf, as well as exciting events such as the running of the bulls. I could feel all of Hadley’s emotions – especially the heartbreak as the relationship really began to head south. I feel that I had a solid perception of Hadley. I don’t think we get a round perspective of Hemingway; we see it from Hadley’s perspective and of course it is just a little biased. One of the strengths of McLain is how she is able to truly bring the world alive – whether it is Chicago, Paris, or a small mountain town – it was palpable. This was definitely more of a character novel than action packed novel.



I thought that the narrator did a fantastic job with the narration of this novel. I could always tell who was speaking or being spoken about and her reading really helped set the tone of the novel.

Author Paula McLain also has written A Ticket to Ride as well as some works of poetry and a memoir. You can visit the website for The Paris Wife for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I've had a copy of this book for ages and have been meaning to read it, especially after finishing Z about Zelda Fitzgerald. Thanks for the review.

    1. It is really nice to pair with Z - you sort of see two sides of some of the same events and time period.

  2. I have had this on my TBR for a long time, but just haven't been motivated to read it. I think, like you, that Hemingway is not an author I've enjoyed so I can't quite convince myself to read this. But it gets great reviews, so I will try to get to it soon. Thanks for the review.

    1. This is really good HF, despite my not liking Hemingway.

  3. Excellent, great writing. Anything to do with Hemingway is well worth reading!!
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