Before I read this book all I knew about Ernest Hemingway was that his friends called him “Papa”, that he killed himself and this picture: Now, I also know that he was kind of jerk to women– or at least he was to his first wife, Hadley.
The story is told from Hadley’s perspective. She is an older woman when she first meets Hem– almost a spinster (gasp 28!). They meet through a mutual friend on Hadley’s first real night out after years of nursing her dying mother. They hit it off immediately and Ernest woos her with his words. They are soon married and move to Paris to jump-start Ernest’s career as a writer– meeting up with some of the most famous American writing big wigs of the time (Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound).
Paris in the 1920s was a place for the free spirit. Traditional marriage was deemed a bit old-fashioned– everyone had at least one lover in their back pocket and no one had kids– it was not the vogue. Hadley and Hem seemed happy with each other tho– with their odd, cutesy nicknames for each other (Nesto, Wemedge, Tattie, Tiny, Hash, Wax Puppy, The Cat, Feather Cat, just to name a few) and their many trips around Europe (drinking, skiing and making love). It seemed like if any couple was going to make it, it would be them– at least that is what Hadley thought.
Hadley eventually gets pregnant much to Ernest’s chagrin. What was she trying to do– hold him down and trap him!!??? She convinces him that she will take up all of the responsibilities for baby Bumby (ya, for real) while he works until his first book is FINALLY published. It is all downhill from there– the book catches on and EH becomes famous (The Sun Also Rises— ever heard of it?). Their lives become a non-stop party and Ernest just loves it– alcohol, bull fights and intense writing. Hadley begins to fade into the background hoping to salvage what they once had. She “allows” her BFF to become too close (to both of them) and eventually she infiltrates their marriage completely. Ernest outright asks Hadley to allow this woman to become a third member of their marriage– talk about wanting to eat his cake and have it too (jerk)! For a brief moment she does allow it to happen until she finally makes the wise decision to skedaddle!
Although this was not the best written book I have ever read (lots of dialogue– some of it pretty cheesy) and Hadley could be so hopelessly old-fashioned that you wanted to shake her at times, it was an overall enjoyable read. I was glad to hear that she eventually found the kind of love she wanted so badly with her second husband, Paul. 3 stars
2 thoughts on “Review: The Paris Wife”
My impression of the book was pretty similar Jack. We just read it for my one book club. I wondered if Hadley was attracted to EH because she was used to taking care of everyone and he clearly needed that. I thought EH did treat women poorly but think he truly loved Hadley, he just didn’t know how to say no. He seemed to get caught in a situation and have trouble sorting loyalties. Given the times and the culture they were part of, I was kind of impressed their marriage lasted as long as it did. The dialogue was definitely cheesy in some parts but overall I didn’t mind her writing. I still found the book took me longer to get through than I thought…the story just wasn’t gripping enough I guess.
Thanks for the comment Barb! Ya, I agree– some of it was indicitive of the typical husband/wife relationship of that time period– the woman taking care of the man as he acts like a jerk and does whatever he wants. What did come through was that EH was a very sad man and threw away a chance at happiness with 2 hands (3 times over I guess since this was marriage 1/4!).
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