Author: Paula McLain
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 314
The Paris Wife is a fictional novel depicting the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. The story is told primarily through Hadley’s point of view, but includes third person narratives of Hemingway’s experiences and reactions in his distinctive writing style every dozen chapters or so. In addition to the relationship between Hadley and Ernest, the reader gets glimpses into the Parisian life of many of the 1920’s most famous expatriots, like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
As a reader, I was fully invested in Hadley’s story. I worried for her in the beginning of the novel, seeing her fall for Ernest and knowing that it wouldn’t last. I celebrated her happiness, when she found passion and joy in motherhood. And I initially questioned her decisions when she learned of Ernest’s affair, but came to understand them later.
While the novel tells the story of Hadley’s relationship with Ernest Hemingway, the true purpose of the book was to show her character growth. She started as a timid and emotionally stunted woman, and developed into a strong woman capable of being independent.
“Sometimes I wish we could rub out all of our mistakes and start fresh, from the beginning. And sometimes I think there isn’t anything to us but our mistakes.” pg. 220
“I could love him like crazy and work very hard to understand and support him, but I couldn’t be fresh eyes and a fresh smile after five years. I couldn’t be new.” pg. 242
“You’ve changed me more than you know, and will always be a part of everything I am. That’s the one thing I’ve learned from this. No one you love is ever truly lost.” pg. 307