The Paris Wife is the story of Hadley Richardson and her husband, Ernest Hemingway. While it is a work a fiction, author Paula McLain did such an amazing job researching different sources and referring to journals, diaries, biographies, and Ernest Hemingway’s own pieces of writing, it feels like you are reading Hadley’s private thoughts as she navigates through her crazy life.
Hadley and Ernest meet in Chicago in the early 1920s, and then find themselves in a whirlwind courtship and marriage, quickly whisking off to Paris, putting all they have into Ernest’s writing career. There they find new friends, including Gertrude Stein and Scott Fitzgerald, while Ernest tries to find his voice that will stand out among the crowd of aspiring artists and writers. They also find that, although they have a strong bond of love and loyalty, they are unprepared for the fast-living and highly untraditional lifestyle that Jazz Age Paris provides, including lots of drinking and beautiful, fashionable women everywhere they turn.
Paula McLain beautifully describes post-war Paris, and it made me feel like I was living there with Hadley, walking the streets, seeing the extravagance and opulence while trying to survive in extreme poverty on a struggling writer’s income. This book is a prime example of why historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and McLain blurs the line between fact and fiction so perfectly that I found myself eager to research this time period and find out more about it.
As you read, you can't help but feel your heart break for Hadley. She is so devastatingly torn between wanting to maintain a sense of normalcy among the chaos, while also fighting for the pure love that her and Ernest once had together. She often finds herself stuck between knowing that Ernest is poison and yet she is still overwhelmed by the love she has for him.
Overall, this was an excellent read. If you are looking to try a historical fiction book but aren't sure if the genre is for you, then The Paris Wife will be perfect. It is the ultimate mixture of history, romance, fame, and failure that will teach you a thing or two while tearing you apart, and you will find yourself flipping through the pages as fast as you can. McLain did an amazing job fictionalizing the thoughts and feelings of Ernest Hemingway’s wife, Hadley. And you, too, will connect with and sympathize with the Paris wife.