Sunday, February 3, 2013

Review: The Paris Wife


The Paris Wife
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read The Paris Wife with my book club this month. I started the novel without knowing anything about it, so was surprised when Ernest Hemingway popped up immediately. Sometimes I guess it helps to read a book jacket before starting something so you know what you're getting into!

I both loved and hated The Paris Wife. We all know that Ernest Hemingway was a sexist alcoholic, and not very likeable (read: JERK). On the one hand it was quite interesting to see an account from a lover's perspective - what attracted Hadley to Hemingway and what a magnetic person he could be. On the other hand, I wanted to wake Hadley up again and again, to say, "He's not worth your time or your sacrifice!"

This poor woman gave up everything for Hemingway, and while affectionate and passionate, he took and took from her, then disposed of her with quite a bit of callousness and cruelty. And she let him. She never stood up for herself for longer than a day or two, always caving to him because 'that's what love is'.

Towards the end of the novel Hadley admits that she was so subservient as both she and Hemingway had assertive, loud, and over-powering mothers, and she wanted to avoid becoming that. What she doesn't see is that Hemingway doesn't offer her another alternative besides the over-bearing wife or the doormat wife. There is no sense of partnership or mutual respect. Instead of 'loving too much,' it seems there was a hollowness to their love.

McLain is an interesting and engaging writer. She clearly did her research before writing The Paris Wife. The story did drag at points, or include seemingly unnecessary scenes for the plot, which seemed to beg for additional editing, but I think this was probably because McLain wanted to include as many of the recorded events and conversations as she could.

Four stars for the writing, two stars for the story (which equates me giving 2 stars to history I realize, I guess I can't help but hate Hemingway for being who he was).


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