The Paris Wife

TPW2012 book club is off to a spectacular start. Kim hosted our January meeting and selected The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a novel written from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Even though the book jacket - and the term "Hemingway's first wife" - makes it clear that the Hemingways' marriage doesn't last, I was still so heartbroken when the relationship finally crashed and burned. Then again, I'm always disappointed when Leonardo DiCaprio dies at the end of Titanic. JAAACK! A (slightly edited) synopsis of TPW from GoodReads:

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

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 and her life changes forever. 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 and Zelda Fitzgerald.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

The Paris Wife was a hit with book club. Set mostly in 1920s Paris, the novel quickly lures the reader into the blinding love story of Hemingway and Hadley. You find yourself immediately on Team Hadley, and, even though you know Ernest is a complete asshole who doesn't appreciate Hadley, you understand why she loves him so much. Together they have a baby, spend an impressive amount of time skiing in Austria without their baby, travel repeatedly to Spain to see the annual bullfights and get drunk with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald so many times I lost count. Sounds awesome, right? WRONG. I won't spoil the story like the book jacket does, but I will tell you that this story does not have a happy ending. I will also tell you that Ernest is a cheater.

Much like how Curtis Sittenfeld's combination of intense research and imagination painted a convincing portrait of Laura Bush in American Wife (a 2010 HCG Summer Book Guide pick), McLain's intimate rendering of Hadley makes you wonder just how much of what McLain wrote was true. Like any good sleuth, HCG did some digging (translation: Googling and reading the epilogue). To confidently write in Hadley's voice, McLain pored over the Hemingways' personal correspondence to each other and read countless Hemingway biographies. That's enough diligence for us.

MR is hosting our February meeting, so expect big things. Girlfriend just cut her hair in a sassy new bob with fresh side swept bangs. Who knows what she'll throw down at book club this month.