I really enjoyed this. I’ve only just started reading fiction again after about 5 years away, so this blend of imagined private lives based on actual facts was a perfect re-introduction.
A Paris Wife is a fictional account of the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Told in the first person by Hadley, it’s a convincing and intimate portrayal of their intense love affair and short marriage. Set mostly in Paris in the 1920s, McLain has created a totally absorbing world of the turn-of-the-century literati, including guest appearances from such luminaries as Gertrude Stein, F Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. Theirs was a time of street cafes, absinthe and tortured memories of the First World War. Hemingway’s early writing and career are explored in depth but these are seen through the eyes of his wife, and though she offers tireless support for his art, her main focus is the man behind the words, the husband she adores.
The novel is exquisitely written – some of the prose actually took my breath away – though it’s still an effortless read. I could easily have devoured this in one sitting, but given my current workload, I rationed myself to bedtime reading only. (Which made me look forward to bedtime even more than I normally do. I couldn’t wait to get back to Tatie and Cat and their latest Parisian adventures.)
Whether or not you are interested in Hemingway or the writerly life, this is a captivating portrait of an unusual love affair and the complexities of marriage. Poignant and engaging, I was sad to finish it.