The Paris Wife

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The big difficulty Paula McLain faces in her novel based on the life of Ernest Hemingway is that even fans of the immortal Papa are likely to end up thinking less of the man. She was born in St Louis, Missouri, and had a sheltered childhood. Her marriage to Hemingway, an impoverished journalist eight years her junior, came as a surprise to her friends; but it was certainly a love match, at least to begin with. Soon after the wedding, the couple moved to Paris, the epicentre of the literary and cultural world.

When the hard-drinking Hemingways meet Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at a nightclub, it is not a contest. If Paris is one long party, with Hemingway trying to establish himself as a writer but making painfully slow progress, the annual jaunts to Pamplona and the bull-running are even more hedonistic: a heady cocktail of hard drinking, middle-class adultery and bloody showdowns in the corrida. Enter, with disastrous consequences, the treacherous Pauline.

The Hemingways now have a son, Bumby, but the wheels are coming off their marriage. The final part of the book, with the novelist conducting a very public affair with his mistress and chiding his wife for not being more understanding, make painful reading.

History is now fully fixed on famous wives. It is sharp, unsparing and delivered in a pared-down prose that the great man himself would have applauded. Available from Telegraph Books I went off to dress, and when I came back, Kate was alone in the room. And then, because she clearly read disappointment in my face, "Should I have invited him along?


This is our day. A moving portrait of a woman slighted by history, a woman whose. This absorbing, illuminating book gives us an intimate view of a sympathetic and perceptive woman, the striving writer she married, the glittering and wounding Paris circle they were part of. And so when I picked up A Moveable Feast again, just a few years ago, I came to the book with entirely fresh eyes, and fell madly in love. As I turned the pages, my hands shook. Hadley is the heroine of A Moveable Feast. Just who was Hadley Richardson? I simply had to know, and so began a process of research that ultimately led me to write The Paris Wife.

Along the way, I searched out multiple biographies of both Hadley and Ernest Hemingway, read and reread his early stories and novels, and visited the Hemingway archive at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston.

Review: The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain - The Globe and Mail

And of course they have all of his works in manuscript form, as well as the bulk of his correspondence. But reading her letters helped me hear her clearly as I worked, and what I ultimately developed is an alchemical combination of her voice and my own. Through her eyes, I found him to be incredibly likeable—vulnerable, and full of self-doubt and impossibly high ideals.

I began to sympathize with him more and more as the obscuring vestiges of his persona began to fall away—the machismo and swagger and big game safaris, those details that suggested he was merely one of his own troubled characters. I was left with a deep curiosity about who Hemingway really was. What were the forces that pushed on him psychically and emotionally? How could he betray Hadley, his best friend and muse? This was a terrifying proposition. After a fashion. So I quit my teaching job and got serious about my writing routine.

From nine to three, five days a week, you could find me tucked into a brown velveteen chair at my neighborhood Starbucks in Cleveland, where I live. This was in late I had no idea the economy was about to take a nosedive, and that it was the worst possible time to downshift in my career. My savings were dwindling rapidly, but I pushed all my anxiety to the side and surrendered to the demands of the book.

I slipped through a miraculous portal to the Boulevard Montparnasse, where Hemingway was writing in a worn blue notebook and staring out the window into the rain. Hours vanished in a blink as I was deliciously swept away. By the time I finished the first draft seven months later, I had six hundred dollars in my savings account and was on the verge of applying for a job at Whole Foods.

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But because life is very good, the book found a wonderful home at Ballantine, and I could keep working on it, now with the help of my brilliant editor, Susanna Porter. I stood outside the chipped blue door of their first apartment in Paris, at 74 Cardinal Lemoine, where they arrived as newlyweds in the winter of That space I already knew by heart.

I love it when book club members confess to having heated late-night discussions over glasses of nice French wine: How could she let him get away with that? How could she have done otherwise? Louis was a difficult and repressive experience. How do her early years prepare her to meet and fall in love with Ernest? What are the risks? What seems to draw the two together? What are some of the strengths of their initial attraction and partnership? The challenges? What do you see as his character strengths?

Can you see what Hadley saw in him? How does this impact her relationship with Ernest? Her self-esteem? What in their relationship seems to sustain them? How does their marriage differ from those around them? How does it affect your ability to understand him and his motivations in general?

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How is Hadley challenged and restricted by her gender? Do you think Ernest ever forgives her? Hadley and Ernest had similar upbringings in many ways. What are the parallels, and how do these affect the choices Hadley makes as a wife and mother? We would never again be this happy" page What impact does the war, for instance, have on the choices and behavior of the expatriate artists surrounding the Hemingways?

Do you see Ernest changing in response to the world around him? How, and how does Hadley feel about those changes? What was the nature of the relationship between Hadley and Pauline Pfeiffer?

The Paris Wife

Were they legitimately friends? Why or why not? It seems as if Ernest tries to make his marriage work even after Pauline arrives on the scene. What would it have cost Hadley to stick it out with Ernest no matter what? Is there a way she could have fought harder for her marriage? In many ways, Hadley is a very different person at the end of the novel than the girl she was when she first encountered Ernest by chance at a party. In fact, it was the last thing he wrote before his death. July 21, will mark the 50th anniversary of Ernest's Hemingway's suicide—but five decades haven't done much to diminish our fascination with the man and his mythology.

Woody Allen's Hemingway is handsome and gruff, macho and bombastic. He talks like he writes, or talks as if he's writing as he's speaking. The effect is hilarious, which is precisely the point. At one point he barks, "Who wants to fight? But even as I laughed, I found myself thinking, this isn't my Hemingway.

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After years spent researching his life and work, I do feel a proprietary interest in Hemingway, and have ultimately come to believe that the real man was infinitely complex, with "more sides to him than any geometry book could ever chart," as his first wife Hadley once said. We're there in the Jazz-Age, that singular time in history when writers and painters and composers rubbed against each other in the cafes, creating sparks that ricocheted through their work, and then through history.

Gil Pender's time travel begins when he steps into a buttery Peugeot that transports him to a Parisian nightclub where Cole Porter is singing "Let's Fall in Love. I fell into that world and didn't want to leave it. Who would? He's forever fixed there for us—just as he would have it, I'm sure. See All Customer Reviews. Read our community guidelines here. Customer help. Contact us. Log in. Log out. Article text size A. To view your reading history, you must be logged in. Log in Register. Open this photo in gallery:. Special to The Globe and Mail. Published March 6, Updated May 2, Comments Please log in to bookmark this story.

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The Paris Wife: Sex, Lies and Literature

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