The Paris Wife
written by Paula McLain, published by Virago
genre literary fiction, 385 pages
Each year the Dutch Harper’s Bazaar dedicates one magazine to writers, books and the love of reading. Each year I can’t wait for this issue filled with so much book inspiration. When Cécile Narinx, their editor in chief, mentioned ‘The Paris Wife’ to be her favorite book, I knew I would love it too. Not only because I think she does have excellent taste when it comes to lifestyle and culture, also the book’s main characters and their beautiful but heartbreaking love story immediate spoke to me.
The story in short
It’s October 1920 when 28-year-old Hadley Richardson from St. Louis visits a friend in Chicago and meets the 21-year-old Ernest Hemingway, a man that’ll change the course of her life completely. Ernest’s fearlessness, his intensity and ambition almost contradict Hadley’s quitness and empty feelings of depression since her father, mother and most beloved sister all have died. Despite their differences they immediately hit it off and after a short period of writing correspondence, Hadley moves to Chicago and within a year the two get married.
Building a life together in Chicago turns out to be harder than expected and when Hadley inherits money from her uncle they decide to immigrate to Paris; the city to be for an aspiring writer like Hemingway. With the help of a friend Ernest and Hadley soon find their way into the creative society of Paris and start building friendships with Gertrude Stein and the likes.
Paris turns out to be a place filled with competition and Hadley’s having a hard time defining her space as a writer’s wife, and mostly with all the attention Ernest gets and gives to other women. Even though their love is real and to the outside world they seem to be the perfect couple, they both have to work hard for their marriage to survive. Despite all the setbacks they have to face, their marriage stays solid until Hadley’s most trusted friend lays her eyes on Ernest too…
Why you should read this book
This fictional novel based on true historical events, tells the beautiful but sad love story of one of America’s biggest writers and his first and probably most loved wife. The story reads like a diary and gives a magnificent inside look into the life of Hadley and Ernest and their struggles of being (the wife of) a poor, young, upcoming writer in Paris in the 1920’s. Trying to keep up with the wealthy lifestyle of their friends and acquaintances, fighting for recognition from the world and from each other.
“Everyone laughed, and it was one of those domino moments.
That laugh would eventually set off an entire series of events, but not yet.
It just stood there in the room, tipping and tipping, but not falling.
Not falling yet. Not quite.”
– Hadley Richardson