Friday, February 17

Book Review: The Paris Wife

Title: The Paris Wife

Author: Paula McClain

Pages: EBook (324)

Summary: 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 unravelling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book was good, but not great, the writing was good, but at times it fell flat and like the plot of the book, didn't hold my interest. I was a bit hesitant  to read this book to start with, because I wasn't sure it was my thing, and for the most part - I was right.

I did enjoy exploring the life of Hemingway - he's portrayed like Hemingway was actually like (at least from what I've learned about him). There was no surprise Hemingway wasn't the best husband in the world, nor that he was a bit self-absorbed. But I still enjoyed learning about his life and how he became the writer he's known to be. Maybe because I already know all his faults, I found him easy to enjoy as a character in the book and his actions, not so surprising or shocking as I would have, had I been blind to what he was really like.  Hadley, on the other hand I knew nothing about, but found her to be a very weak, unlikeable character. Although she had a bit of a rough time in her relationship with Hemingway, I find it hard to sympathize with her, when she took little control of the situation, and let everyone in her life lead her around.

The writing fairly good, I did find it to fall a bit flat at times, and the plot repeated itself a lot  - it was stretched out, although it gave a well rounded review of the years they were together - it became boring after a while, as they were constantly going to a dinner, social events, bull fighting etc with a particular person or group. In the first half of the book I found it interesting, as this inspired Hemingway to write his first novel - but after a while it got repetitive and boring.

Overall it was a interesting book, I learned a little more about Hemingway and his life, but it wasn't exactly a book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: If you're interested in Hemingway's love life, particularly his years with his first wife than I would. A good book, just not great - not a book I'd highly recommend. But some readers would enjoy it.

What to read next: Sun Also Rises by Hemingway - since it was mentioned and had an influence on the characters in the book.


  1. I have been hearing a lot about this book recently. I am hoping to read it at some point.

    1. I heard a lot about it too, which is why I finally got my self to read it - and it didn't work for me. I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

  2. I had been hoping that this one would have received more positive reviews, and now that it hasn't, I am a little more reluctant to read it. It sounds like it was slightly challenging, and not in a good way. I did really appreciate your insightful and perceptive review on it today though!

  3. I just finished this book. I actually loved it! I felt that Hadley's character was believable as a weak, educated but not well-read person based upon her up bringing/life up until she met Hemingway. She is not a "modern" woman as we know it but there to support and stand by her husband. But again it is fiction. I would say historical fiction. A quote that I found a pivotal point in the book is when Hadley reflects stating "sometimes I wish we could rub out all of our mistakes and start fresh, from the beginning. And sometimes I think there isn't anything to us but our mistakes." I think that sums up the entire book, Hemingway's life and the company they keep whether in Paris, Spain or the USA.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I'm glad you enjoyed the book so much. She wasn't a modern woman true, but I still didn't see why she made some of the choices she made. Thanks for sharing the quote to, it's a good one.

  4. I have just finished reading this book which I chose for our Book Group. I found it echoed pretty well, the era that my grandmother lived in and I found it a very good read.

    All of our book group enjoyed the book and we have now decided to read Ernest Hemingway's most famous book "For whom the bell tolls" as unbelievably we all realised we had never read ANY Hemingway.

    Several of our members wanted to shake Hadley by the shoulders and tell her to assert herself but then again it was the 1920's when women were doormats and she as a 28 year old spinster when she met Hemingway must have been grateful for anything.

    1. Yes, you're right it was a great example of women during that time, sometimes when reading it's hard to stay in that time set. Still, I agree with the members of your reading group and wanting to shake the woman by the shoulders!