Four months ago I was very pregnant and impatiently awaiting the arrival of my first born. With an ever-expanding belly, I was working less and worrying more. I needed a good distraction, something to keep my mind occupied while I waited on this baby to […]
Tag: book review
Warning: This review probably contains spoilers, or if nothing else it at least contains many hints of plot details. Just saying. A couple of months ago my book club read Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. I know I’m behind on the review, but I’ve been […]
*May contain spoilers!
During the jazz age of Paris, the extraordinary relationship between literary giant, Ernest Hemingway, and his first wife is strained, abused, and broken. Told through the eyes of simple and sometimes quite boring, Hadley Richardson, The Paris Wife will take you back to the exciting time of A Moveable Feast. Unlike Hemingway’s memoir about “the Paris years”, Paula McLain brings the sheltered and modest Hadley to life, falling in love and being swept off her feet by a young and charismatic Hemingway.
Easily charmed at a party in Chicago in 1920, Hadley instantly falls for Hemingway, seven years her junior. After an amorous, brief courtship, Hadley and Hemingway hastily marry and soon after move to Paris. The Hemingways soon make their acquaintances with the famous, volatile, and talented “Lost Generation”, including Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Hadley finds herself struggling to keep her marriage together as the jazz age of Paris completely consumes her husband.
Hemingway slaves away over his typewriter, struggling to compete with the literary juggernauts with whom he surrounds himself, while Hadley desperately attempts to juggle her conventional values and her husband’s needs. Despite Hadley’s devotion to her husband and the sacrifices she makes for his literary career, they are ripped apart by his devastating acts of betrayal. The hard-drinking, free-love atmosphere of 1920s Paris has all but ruined her marriage.
McLain creates the atmosphere of Hadley and Hemingway’s Paris almost identical to that of A Moveable Feast. While fictionally taking on the voice of Hadley, McLain doesn’t stray too far from the facts, making this a truly enthralling read for literary history lovers. That is, once you get to the interesting part. The Hemingways don’t move to Paris until the twelfth chapter. While the story of how Hadley and Hemingway met and became married is very important, some may think it a bit drawn out here. The glitz and fast-living of Paris is all the more captivating, not to mention the conflict it places on the couple’s relationship.
In The Paris Wife Hadley is portrayed as decent and kind, very similar to A Moveable Feast, however while getting a clearer picture of Hadley you aren’t getting a more enjoyable one. Still stuck in a pre-feminist era, Hadley’s voice isn’t as distinct as one may have hoped. At times she is dull and pitiful. However, what she lacks in excitement, she makes up for with earnest. Hadley does her best to make the marriage work the way Hemingway wants it to. Our heart aches for her as she discovers his infidelity and we cringe when she half-heartedly attempts to accept it. While a bit boring at times, McLain writes a Hadley we can believe in and sympathize with.
McLain appears to effortlessly express the charisma and ego that was Ernest Hemingway. While it becomes apparent that he really loves Hadley, Hemingway slips all too easily into the jazz lifestyle of Paris. We see Hemingway transform from an eager, novice writer to arrogant and successful; from devoted husband and father to selfish adulterer. McLain succeeds in showing a more complex and sympathetic Hemingway, one haunted by his choices. While Hadley’s life after Paris is a happy one, McLain in no way sugar coats the sad, unfortunate truths of Hemingway’s history. Despite Hadley’s happiness, her sadness at the loss of her first love is not mistaken. The incredible bond between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife never seemed to fade and McLain portrays it beautifully.
Literature lovers will take great delight in this novel of historical fiction by Paula McLain. McLain stays true to the facts concerning the exciting expatriates of Jazz Age Paris, while portraying the story of Hemingway’s overlooked first wife. Although boorish at times, Hadley is an endearing character, one who wins over the hearts of readers. You will fall in love with the young Hemingways and curse the Paris lifestyle that rips their marriage apart.
It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
It just so happens that my latest read coincides with the recent Brittany Maynard controversy. For those of you who have been living under a rock lately, Brittany Maynard was the recently married 29 year old who choose to “die with dignity” while battling painful […]
* Caution: May contain spoilers! The previews for the new Hunger Games movie has me reverting back to the first two movies and, of course, the book series. I never really hopped on to the Harry Potter train and was a begrudging reader of the […]
My latest read was one that kept me up at night, anxiously turning the pages while the clock ticked on and my husband slept soundly. If you love quirky female leads, then you’ll love this book. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is somewhat of a mystery with an intelligent 15 year old on the case. Bee’s mom has gone missing after a number of confrontations with bitchy PTA moms and her husband’s attempt at having her committed. Bee ignores the grim opinions of law enforcement and decides to take on the investigation herself. Bee leads the reader on a wild journey to Antarctica to bring her mother home.
This Review Contains Spoilers!
My favorite part about this book is how the first half or so of the story is told through pieces of evidence that Bee has strung together, email correspondences, medical bills, magazine articles, etc. Through this evidence, the picture of Bernadette is painted as a brilliant yet nutty architect whose young and promising career met an untimely, confrontational end. After getting her professional heart broken in Los Angeles, Bernadette and her family relocated to Seattle where her husband took a time consuming job.
Bernadette And All Her Quirkiness
Being a stay at home mom doesn’t bode well for Bernadette’s misplaced genius. Bernadette is what makes this book so addicting, she is a fascinating character. She is incredibly intelligent and driven, but for what? With no intellectual outlet, Bernadette’s quirkiness grows and so does the tension between her and those around her. Bernadette develops agoraphobia, because of which she prefers to stay inside her dilapidated house, she even opts for hiring a virtual assistant in an effort to limit her contact with the rest of the world.
I found Bernadette and all her craziness charming. She did have a lot of issues, but she dealt with a lot of bullshit too, like the “gnats” (you’ll have to read the book if you want to know). Granted, she did not handle her first (and only) professional disappointment well, but you have to feel sympathetic for all she went through to have Bee. Bernadette birthed a child just as wild. In the beginning of the book, intelligent and rather mature for her age, Bee appears to be well grounded and very rational. That all changes once her mother has gone missing and Bernadette begins to shine through her daughter. The most addicting part of the book was of course the Antarctica trip where Bee was the only one still holding out hope.
My qualms lie with Elgie, Bernadette’s Microsoft slave of a husband, and Audrey, Bernadette’s school mom nemesis. At first, I loved Elgie because he loved such an eccentric woman (gives hope to all of us crazy ladies). Once Bernadette started to really unravel, so did my adoration for Elgie. Instead of just flat out asking his wife what was up or simply paying more attention when at home, the frequently absent father and husband secretly arranged to give Bernadette and intervention in hopes she would commit herself. The part that pissed me off the most was, of course, Elgie’s inappropriate relationship with Soo-Lin during his wife’s “mental breakdown”.
Audrey was just your typical protagonist in the first half of the novel. I loved to hate her and think to myself what Bernadette should have done or said. That all got complicated when Audrey has a sudden change of heart and decides to warn Bernadette of her husband’s planned intervention and probable committal. This muddles up my feelings about Audrey. I still can’t stand how pretentious and bitchy she is or was, but she has slightly redeemed herself. It seemed too good of an epiphany to be true, an unlikely turnaround.
Nevertheless, I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I loved Bernadette for the crazy genius that she is and I loved Bee for the fierce hopeful that she is. Bee is incredibly clever for stringing together “evidence” of her mother’s breakdown and disappearance but she is also unwavering in her search. The whole story is wildly clever and witty and I wasn’t disappointed in the outcome. I was left to wonder what would happen between Bernadette, her unfaithful husband, and his pregnant one-night stand.