The Paris Wife of the title refers to Hadley Richardson. She was the first wife of acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway. Most of their married years were spent living in Paris, where Hemingway developed into an accomplished and popular writer .
Ernest Hemingway has never been of much interest for me. In middle school they made us read The Old Man and the Sea-my first and last Hemingway!. He always seemed to be a blustering drunk who spent more time fishing and hunting than actually writing. Reading details of his early life has made me a bit more sympathetic. Clearly, Ernest’s relationship with Hadley was so important in his development as a writer. He would certainly not have been able to devote as much time to his writing without her financial support.
Hadley however is also interesting and sympathetic. I totally understand the dilemma of the woman caught between the past and the future. She was not raised to have an independent life, but to tend to her family. The world was changing around her, and she struggled. And she didn’t realize how strong and independent she was. While Ernest was working and carousing, she was taking care of their son (albeit with considerable household help) and their home. Ernest changed Hadley’s life, but she made his fame and fortune possible.
I felt that this book gave a really interesting perspective on the “lost generation” of writers and artists living in Paris in the 1920’s. (The story of this time in his life was later published as A Movable Feast.) We tend to forget that the after affects of World War I lingered for years, particularly for the soldiers involved and all throughout Europe. Once I started reading it, it was tough to put down.
Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewer for sending me this book!
Hardcover edition to be published-Ballantine Books-February 2011