Skip to main content

The Paris Wife

It is no great secret that I have what you might call a "literary crush" on Ernest Hemingway. I am completely vested in the romantic notion of Hemingway in Interwar Paris as the ruggedly handsome struggling young writer of the Lost Generation. After all, what is not to love about a man who writes, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast"? 
This summer, I finally had the time to read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. I was a bit apprehensive as I cracked open the book. My mother warned me in a shocked and horrified tone that her friend from book club had read The Paris Wife and now hates Hemingway because he was such a cad. I had to remind myself that not everyone is as obsessed about Paris during the Jazz Age as I am. I knew the history, so I was not going in blindly. But after my mom's friend's boycott on all things Hemingway after reading the book, my concern was, "Has McLain destroyed the literary integrity of one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century?" 
The story, historical fiction written from Hadley's perspective, could have easily been skewed to make Hem's philandering one dimensional and shallow. But McLain gives the reader insight into the complexity of Hadley's internal struggle and in some ways, Hem's struggle, as well. 
Perhaps the aspect I liked most is that Hadley was no victim. When Hem's infidelity comes to light, she makes conscious choices to stay and fight for the love of her life, and father of her child. While I would not have put up with half of the nonsense Hadley did, I do recognize that this love affair took place pre-women's lib. And I think that my mom's friend's disgust with Hemingway is a direct result from her failure to recognize the same. The 1920s and 1930s mindset regarding marriage was, to quote a former neighbor of that generation, "You made your bed, now you must lie in it." End of story. I saw this in my own grandparent's marriage...never warm and fuzzy and my Grandpa could be pretty rotten to my sweetheart of a Grandma. But divorce was simply not an option. As readers, we must remember to keep things in their historical context.
Hadley and Ernest Hemingway in Chamby, Switzerland, 1922.
Photograph: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection,
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
The funny thing is that even though I knew going into the book how it was going to end, I still found myself hoping it would be different. Having the benefit of hindsight, I knew Hem would eventually regret what he was doing. And I wondered...if he had not strayed; if he had stayed with Hadley, could he have avoided his tragic demise? 
Follow on Bloglovin


I read this a couple of months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it! Like you, I'm Hemingway obsessed and knew before reading it his true caddish nature. Reading it did not make me boycott anything Hemingway. However, I feel Hadley is often regarded with such a fleeting glance since she was after all wife number 1 and yet I found her character to be fascinating. I was just glad that long after she parted ways with Hemingway she went on to have a happy and long marriage.
I haven't read it yet, but it's been on my list since it came out. I will now get my copy and dig in. Thanks for the post! Wonderful as always!

Popular posts from this blog

Les Femmes Tondues

It is no great secret that some French collaborated during the Nazi Occupation of France. Some did it for less than admirable reasons, such as political gain, anti-Semitism, or true fascist ideology. Other people were frightened and saw no end to the Occupation, while some were motivated simply by the desire to survive. Many women who collaborated fall into the latter category. Food, clothes, and fuel (among other items) were scarce during the Occupation. Nearly everything needed to sustain life was rationed, and much of France's food and other necessary commodities were shipped to Germany. One way to ensure warmth and a full belly was by making nice with a German soldier. 
In a desperate attempt to survive, some French women took on German soldiers as lovers. It return, the soldier ensured the woman's basic needs were met. Not all women had affairs for material gain - some simply slept with German soldiers because they were lonely. Either way, these sexual liaisons produced man…

La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv (The Vel d’Hiv Round Up)

Photo Source: 1st Art Gallery
Every Holocaust survivor – every ghost of those who did not survive - has a story to tell. Each story is unique, yet equally tragic. Some we have heard more than once, while others lay silent, buried in the dusty pages of a nation’s shame…
Occupation and Anti-Semitism 14 June 1942 marked the two-year anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Paris. By this point, many French had joined the Résistance, while others felt it in their best interest to collaborate with the Nazi regime. Many Jews had fled France, and those who remained behind lived in chronic fear. The Jewish Decrees (France's version of the Nuremberg Laws) saw the Jews of Paris stripped of their livelihoods, property, and rights. As in other occupied areas of Europe, the French Jews were required to wear the yellow stars of David. Inscribed with a single word in the center, Juif (Jew), the badges had to be sewn neatly on the left side of the chest. Failure to do so could land a person in jail – o…

A Little Zazou ~ Pour Vous

Sorry Disney fans, but I am not talking about Simba's little feathered hornbill friend in the Lion King (that's spelled Zazu anyway). No, I am talking about the Zazou Jazz Era that began in Interwar Paris and les zazous who, in their own way, defied Vichy and the Nazis when they occupied France during the Second World War. 
Thanks to my ADD that always manages to kick in when I am supposed to be doing serious research, I stumbled upon the concept of zazou when I was - you guessed it - researching for my Master's thesis on the French Resistance last year. 
While I was disappointed that I could not use this newfound knowledge in my thesis, all was not lost. This detour introduced me not only to the fascinating history of les zazous, but some really remarkable Manouche Jazz (a.k.a. Gypsy Swing Jazz) that I knew would some day make a great blog. Lucky you, mes chers, that day is today!
What the Heck IS Zazou? Zazou describes a style of jazz as well as a group of people. Les zazous