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Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife is a fictional account written from the point of view of Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. It tells their love story – how they first meet and how they corresponded through letters before they married and settled in Paris after the First World War, living along other writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson. During this time the young couple travelled extensively, and had a young son, Bumby, and Hemingway wrote some of his most powerful work. But theirs was a passionate, but ultimately tragic love story when Hemmingway betrayed Hadley by running off with Pauline, a close friend.

This is a fascinating book – beautifully written and researched, and it brings colourfully to life the woman who Hemmingway himself said in his memoir after marrying four times, ‘I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.’ It seems after reading this book that Hemmingway was undoubtedly a driven writer, but he seemed unsuited to marriage in so many ways – and their relationship was all about her giving and giving, with Hemmingway always doing the taking. Hadley granted him a divorce – another act of generosity on her part – but thankfully she went onto to find the personal happiness that continued to elude the complex character of her ex-husband. This is a wonderful work of fiction that prompted me look up information about the real people involved. It is one of those books that is a compelling and moving read in its own right, but it triggered a great deal of curiosity about the real lives involved.

#bookreviews #historicalfiction

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