The Paris Wife

Title: The Paris Wife
Writers : Paula McLain
Published: 2012
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 3 on 5

The Paris Wife is a fictionalized account of Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. It chronicles Hadley meeting Ernest, their courtship, marriage and the eventual divorce. Paula McLain became interested in Hadley after reading Hemingway’s memoir ‘A Moveable Feast’ in which he says ‘he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley’.

“The Paris Wife”, named so as the couple moved to Paris after their marriage, is written in Hadley’s point of view. It gives us glimpses of Hadley’s not-so-rosy childhood where she was labeled as “weak” as she used to suffer from migraines often. She is leading a boring, monotonous life, waiting for some change to come along and thus enters Hemingway. After a few meetings, they live through the long-distance relationship phase and eventually get married.They move to Paris to break away from the routine life and also with the hope that Hemingway’s literary career can reach greater heights. We get to see the couple go through some rough patches and their utlimate divorce.

It is interesting to read some popular names like Scott Fitzgerald and how the writers lived their lives. It gets boring at times with a recollection of events like ‘we vacationed here’ and then ‘this happened’ etc. Hadley comes across as a very confident woman who knows what she wants in life. She supports Hemingway all through by giving enough space when needed and nudge him to work harder. I liked how clear headed and sorted out she was during the initial days of their marriage. The incident where she loses all of Hemingway’s work is heartbreaking. I felt a strong attachment with Hadley as the story progressed. I lost touch with Hadley when she narrates Hemingway’s affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. It is hard to believe that someone who was so confident all through the relationship turned so desperate to hold onto her man that she put up with sharing her bed (literally) with another woman.

Leaving aside Hemingway’s presence, this novel is like any other book about a couple. Hadley’s character stays with you for sometime, but apart from that, I didn’t take away anything from the book.


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