Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

My book club read this novel about Hemingway this month, and every person in the club enjoyed it. Having read most of Hemingway's works, in addition to works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and Gertrude Stein (not to mention the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas--Stein's lifelong partner), I can say with confidence that McLain depicts the essence of Hemingway's life as a young man. The Bohemian lifestyle of the expatriates, the attention to the craft of writing, the struggles with finances, and Hemingway's interactions with other literary figures and their partners all ring true. I also felt McLain was able to show the inspiration behind Hemingway's writing of The Sun Also Rises, with wonderful scenes of the bullfights in Pamplona, Spain.

Told from the point of view of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, this fictional interpretation submerged me into Hemingway's lifestyle and struggles while presenting me with a good story. I immediately liked Hadley and sympathized with her, feeling crushed by her husband's betrayals. There were moments I hated Hemingway, but McLain does a superior job of keeping him sympathetic to the end.

I highly recommend this novel.