I just finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and it’s left me with quite a few thoughts.
Firstly, I love that this book is about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. I know very little about Hemingway and haven’t read much of his work, but I find him fascinating nonetheless. And this book makes me want to read more of his writing. Plus, I love the autobiographical feel of the book, even though it is fiction. McLain made a good move in getting to the essence of the characters, a devoted writer’s life, and the world of bohemian Paris in the 1920s.
Secondly, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I seem to have a thing for Paris lately. The book doesn’t talk much about Paris itself, but it certainly left me with a feeling of what it was like for the elite artists of that time. Most of them were just starting out, like Hemingway, hoping to become famous writers. And others were famous, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. Some of them were rich and living decadently, and others lived simply, just for their writing. As a person that’s spent a lot of time with musicians, I get that. Sacrifices are all worth it for the art. But they did meet, travel, and work together. And McLain really gives the reader a sense of that collaboration from the start. Also, she paints Hemingway as a person who would do anything and go anywhere for his writing. And Hadley was always there to support him, for the first five years, anyway. ***Spoiler alert: Hemingway had four wives. Hadley, the Paris wife, was the first, so we know how that ends.
Thirdly, with said spoiler, this book got me thinking about how marriages stay together. Hadley was always so supportive of Ernest, and the way McLain tells it, Ernest loved her and needed her very much in the early days. But eventually, he moved on. Most of the artists and the group they kept company practiced open relationships, so it was hard to ever see Hadley and Ernest ending, even when they got very frustrated with each other. It made me wonder, as a bride-to-be, what keeps marriages from falling apart? What can I take away from McLain’s Hemingways?
I’ll tell you in the next post. It’s kinda heavy. So, be prepared for some heavy thinking.