Friday, 18 September 2015

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

review by Maryom

 From their first meeting in October 1920, when Hadley Richardson is 28 and Ernest Hemingway 21, The Paris Wife recounts the story of their relationship, through struggling years in Paris, to the beginnings of fame with the publication of Hemingway's first novel, and the break-up of their marriage.

I've come to this book a little in reverse - when I read Naomi Woods Mrs Hemingway, everyone was asking if I'd read this too, but instead I read Paula McLain's second biographical novel Circling the Sun Now at last, here I am!

Told mainly in the first person from Hadley's perspective, it's obviously slightly biased in her favour, but it captures the first flush of love, her fears that her feelings might not be reciprocated, and her seemingly headlong rush into marriage, excellently. It did however leave me  wondering if there could have been a different interpretation of her actions - a desperate last-ditch attempt for a spinster in her late twenties to secure a husband.
When the story moved to Paris in the early '20s, I had a feeling of it being on more solid ground, covered many times by Hemingway's biographers - but here things began to hit the problem that all fictionalised biographies face -  the reader most likely knows how the plot will pan out. I did, recognising the 'villain' when she first appeared on the scene and being able to anticipate the ending.
Some of the settings and supporting characters are familiar too, through the novels of both Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald, and it's curious to see them in 'real life' rather than their fictionalised counterparts.
Overall, I enjoyed it and it brought to life a relationship of which I've heard a lot, though oddly by the end my sympathies lay with Hemingway's second wife, knowing her marriage was doomed too.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Virago
Genre - Adult Fiction, fictionalised biography


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