Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Posted October 9, 2015 in Book Review / 0 Comments

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Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLainThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published by Ballantine Books on November 27th 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 314
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
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four-stars

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they've fought so hard for.

 
 
 

 

Main Points
Writing Style 
I liked the dialog, even if there wasn’t much of it. It was entertaining. The setting descriptions were adequate (I did skip over some of it though, setting descriptions tend to bore me). The character descriptions were fairly typical. The location transitions were a bit too abrupt, however. One minute you’re here, the next minute you’re somewhere else entirely. It wasn’t distracting, but it was definitely noticeable.
Story (some spoilers)
It was a very interesting story. Painful at times (quite often, actually, but that’s just how it was). It actually reminded me a lot of a book I read recently- The Secret Life of Josephine: Napoleon’s Bird of Paradise. Josephine was Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife, and both women were very similar in marriage, if not courtship. After a while the marriage began to lose its charm and excitement and conversations were forced and infrequent. I think both women should have left their husbands a lot sooner. But I was glad Hadley found another man to live out her days with. She deserved it. Oh! Another parallel is that both girls had migraines. Wonder why?
Overall, it was a story that made me want to keep reading for the most part. Only a few parts were a bit slow.
A theme was broken promises. That seemed to happen a lot. One thing I noticed was that there was little to no mention of the women’s rights movement. This was happening in the 1920s, so that would be a big thing, right? Hm. Also, I’ve heard he was a bit of a misogynist, but that was understated in the book.
Characters (spoilers, but probably some obvious ones)
Ernest: From what I had heard about him before, I expected to really like him, and in the beginning of this book, I did. But as time went on, he seemed more dangerous and crazy, but not in the psychotic way, just in the are-you-sure-you-want-to-be-dating-this-guy way. He may have been a bit charming, but from the beginning he was the flighty sort, and way too immersed in his work. I don’t think Hadley knew quite what she was getting into.
Hadley: She was likeable, if a bit boring. She seemed pretty accepting and tolerant of a lot of stuff. Not sure why Ernest chose her, but I can clearly see why he decided to stay with her for as long as he did. She was a good rock, a good supporter of his work if not always his cheerleader, which brings me to Pauline.
Pauline: Nice enough at the beginning, but then a sly snake. I don’t know how she expected it to work, or for Hadley to be okay with everything. Of course she wouldn’t be, you’re stealing her husband! And something Ernest said was true: she and Hadley really didn’t have much in common besides the typical stuff. Only him.
Ending (spoilers)
The story grew progressively more depressing, so I knew the breakup was inevitable, although there were a few moments where I felt they might have had a chance. Sadly, they did split, after a few long torturous months of uncertainty. Anyhow, Hadley had a good rest of her life, while Ernest’s went on predictably. Hard to feel sorry for him after all that. But it was satisfying for our heroine Hadley. Now I want to unravel the mangled mystery that was Zelda Fitzgerald. I need something new.
Bottom Line
I liked this book very much, depressing and painful though it was. It was a good dose of truth and reality. It wasn’t outstandingly written, but the messages were clear and satisfying. A good read for someone interested in history. Would I read more by this author? Probably not. Would I recommend this book to others? If they liked this sort of thing. It was accurate and a bit entertaining.

If You Liked This, Try Reading…..
 
Bonus
Check out the essay I wrote while reading this book. Also, check out the Food For Thought post on this book.
 

About Paula McLain

Paula McLain has published two collections of poetry, “Less of Her” and “Stumble, Gorgeous,” both from New Issues Poetry Press, and a memoir entitled “Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses” (Little, Brown, 2003). “A Ticket to Ride,” is her debut novel from Ecco/HarperCollins. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and has since been a writer-in-residence at Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and The Ucross Foundation Residency Program, and received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. Individual poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including the Gettysburg Review, Antioch Review, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. As well as teaching part-time at John Carroll University, she is a core faculty member in the low-residency MFA Program in Poetry at New England College.

Rating
Plot
four-stars
Characters
two-half-stars
Writing
four-stars
Romance
three-stars
Cover
four-stars
Ending
three-stars
Feels
three-stars
Overall: four-stars
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