Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

An emotional, breathtaking story awaits you in The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain.

It is post-World War I, and a young Ernest Hemingway meets Hadley Richardson in Chicago. Hadley and Ernest are immediately taken with each other, and despite the warnings from her friend, Kate, a whirlwind romance ensues.

The married couple sets sail for Paris in December of 1921, soon meeting the likes of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and others who help Ernest with his blossoming writing career.

The hard-drinking and fast-living cafe life does not mix well with the traditional values of family and monogomy. Hadley soon becomes jealous of Ernest's attraction to other women, while he struggles with self-doubt. Perhaps Paris will be too much for both of them.

I knew very little of Ernest Hemingway's life, not even enough to know the difference between the fact and fiction of this book without reading the author's website. I knew, however, that Hemingway was a great and complicated writer, who had commited suicide.

Paula McLain writes an eloquent story of Hadley and Ernest's courtship and marriage. Told from Hadley's point of view, McLain paints the picture of Paris in the 1920's so well that the reader feels she is sitting right alongside the Hemingways and their friends in the fancy cafes where they drank too much and shared too much.

This book read slow for me, but not because of any problem with the way it was written. Hemingway was an intense and troubled person, living a fast-life while attempting to carve out a writing career. To believe any story where he plays a character can be anything less than intensely emotional, is an error. While this might sound odd, The Paris Wife was emotionally draining for me. I found I had to put it down and not touch it for a couple of days at a time, just so I could recharge. I couldn't even read anything instead of it.

The ending brought with it a sense of sadness, but also a sigh of relief. I didn't want to leave the Hemingways behind, but I needed to read something lighter, easier. That McLain could write a novel that left me feeling this way, is dumbfounding. The book has left me with a desire to study Hemingway's works and the many books cited by the author that she used as source material.

I highly recommend The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and look forward to more books from this author.

Title:  The Paris Wife
Author:  Paula McLain
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345521307
ISBN-13: 978-0345521309
SRP:  $25.00

Also available in a Kindle edition and as an audiobook.

Random House paid me to promote The Paris Wife through a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. The fee did not include a review. I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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