The Paris Wife – A Review

I don’t know how people write reviews without spoilers.

I’m going to try.

Book Club’s choice of the month was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

The Paris Wife


I wasn’t overly excited. I’m not a huge fan of anything not set in modern times (though books like Tully by Paullina Simons are a definite exception to that rule). I didn’t even start the book until Saturday (book club Sunday).

I downloaded it on my ipad and it was the first book I had read that way. I actually quite enjoyed it and loved the way that it synched with my iphobe. I could open the ibook on my phone and it would skip to the page I had just been reading on my ipad.

The book was slow to begin but later I realised why. The author was building the characters and ingraining the heroine in the reader so that you would feel her pain. We were set-up to emphasise as her life unravels.

The book is a fictionalised version of the relationship between Ernest Hemmingway and his first wife Hadley. Besides his name, I really knew nothing about the great writer and shamefully have read nothing he has written. I had no idea if any of this was true to life or not but the author’s notes at the back of the book detail her meticulous research and the fact that she based her account on Ernest’s own account of that marriage, A Moveable Feast.

I can only describe Ernest as tortured. He was not a person that was ever going to be content. He was scared of life, scared of commitment, scared of failing. He also had a destructive streak, with a need to tear down those he admired to make himself feel better. Much like a bully who needs to inflict pain to ease his own.

Their life in literary society – Paris 1920’s was as fascinating as it was horrifying. From the squalor to the “bohemian” relationships and hard drinking, the author brought it all to life in amazing detail.

You see it through the eyes of his wife Hadley, a steadfast, reliable woman who gave Ernest what he needed at the time, unrestrained admiration and stability. From this base he felt he could fly.

Hadley sacrifices herself to be what Ernest needs and hers is an enthralling journey spanning their five year marriage.

Well worth a read.



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