Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Historical Fiction - not Biography

Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Pages: 320
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345521315

This is clearly a book club type book – written to generate discussion between women about the value of marriage, the importance of trust and respect in a relationship, and when to call it quits. 

I struggled at first to connect with the main character, Hadley Richardson, who became Ernest Hemingway's first wife, known as the Paris wife because that is where they lived for most of their marriage. This is not a biography of Hadley, but rather it is classified as a historical fiction. The author researched Hadley's life, read the letters between Hadley and Hemingway, and then imagined what their lives together might have been like. Hadley is portrayed as mousy, insecure and struggling to fine her own purpose in life. She is totally dedicated to Hemingway's career, but doesn't feel like she fits into his circle of friends. After losing Hemingway's packet of written stories, the bond between them is broken, as Hemingway no longer trusts Hadley, and the rest of the book is the slow moving train wreck of their marriage, as Hemingway has an affair with a mutual friend, who eventually becomes his second wife. 

 I guess people speculate about Hemingway's true feelings and regret about Hadley, because his last story before he died was in tribute to her. The story also explores the difficulties Hemingway had as revolutionary writer.There is a brief explanation from the author about why and how she wrote the book along with a list of book club questions.  In many ways, I found Hadley much like Bella (in the Twilight series - yes I read it, I'm a middle school teacher).  Both were in love with volatile men, didn't understand their effect on people, and didn't feel worthy of being with the men or included in their circles. (And both are whiny.)  However, from reading this book, I am more interested in learning about the real Hadley and hope to pick up some of the real biographies to see how close the historically documented one is to the fictional one.

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