Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I am probably one of the few English majors that graduated without ever reading any Ernest Hemingway in college or high school.  I’m not exactly sure how I managed that, but it is what it is.  I hear that Hemingway’s stuff typically appeals to a male crowd more than female – but I can’t think of an instance where any male I know has been absolutely gaga for Hemingway – then again, he doesn’t actually come up in too many of the conversations I have, so who knows.  Regardless, after reading The Paris Wife, I am left in a torn state…curious to read one of Hemingway’s seminal works (mainly, the one so heavily discussed in this book, The Sun Also Rises), but at the same time absolutely repulsed by him as a person.  I don’t exactly know if I’d be able to start reading any of his stuff with an open mind at this point – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

If you haven’t heard or gathered by now, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is about none other than Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley, and their equal parts passionate and tumultuous relationship.

Their story begins in 1920’s Chicago and ends across the ocean in the place to be for all aspiring artists, authors, and other creatives at the time – Paris.  Despite all that Hadley does for Ernest – consistently encouraging and praising his work, putting his needs first, following him wherever his aspirations take him – Ernest, following the lead of many of his friends who eschewed monogamy, just can’t seem to keep it in his pants.  His betrayal shakes Hadley to the core, ultimately ending their relationship – yet Hadley persists in speaking highly of Earnest, continuing in her love for him even as their marriage falls to pieces.

Never having read much about Hadley, The Paris Wife was definitely eye-opening.  Even despite knowing how the story ends ahead of time, I was still consistently disappointed in Ernest from start to finish.  Obviously I’ve never met the guy, but judging from the portion of his life portrayed in these pages, it boggles me how anyone could find the guy even mildly charming.  I also just can’t fathom how anyone could write about Ernest and Hadley’s relationship as an inspiring love story.  I personally don’t consider it one for the record books, unless the record is for being married to a supreme a-hole.  Despite my newfound dislike for Hemingway, the book was engaging throughout and well-written.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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