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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book Review: The Paris Wife

"The Paris Wife" is a work of historical fiction that brings Ernest Hemingway's first marriage to life in Jazz age Paris.  It paints the picture of Hemingway as a rabble-rouser and charming as hell.  Hadley Richardson, his first wife, is a quiet girl about eight years his senior whose previous life was incredibly different from the one she led with Hemingway.  After being bedridden for a year as a child, she was sheltered, first by her mother and then by herself after her father's suicide.  Meeting Hemingway was a breath of fresh air and she was swept away clear to Europe.

Their life in Paris was consumed by hard partying among literary geniuses like Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Hadley and Ernest seem to be the only ones among the group who value monogamy and family, but their bond can only remain strong for so long before someone breaks.

I know this book was on the best seller list for a while, but I just didn't fall in love with it like the rest of America.  It sells this picture of their marriage as perfect until it's not.  That though brief, it was incredibly romantic.  I have to think that was the more fictionalized part of historical fiction.  Based on the way Hemingway tore through women after Hadley, I doubt he was ever really faithful.  There were also plenty of times where Hadley and Ernest are corresponding, but none of the content was taken from their actual letters.  I wish there could have been some primary sources utilized to add some validity to the story.

As a story of a whirlwind romance in the 20s, it's lovely...but it loses something when I'm wondering how much is accurate.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

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