Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

Paula McLain has penned a novel based on the story of Ernest Hemingway's, American novelist (1899 - 1961), first marriage.  He meets her, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, (1891 - 1979), at a mutual friend's boarding house in Chicago.  Between them there is an ease.  They fall in and out of conversation, and speak to each other about dreams and aspirations without any expectation.  Hadley, that's how she is known to her friends, is from St. Louis, and Ernest, Hem that's how amongst so many other ways, his friends call him, is from Oak Park.  Not that the location they are from matters; it is just a fact stated in the novel which attempts to be as much true to the original story as possible.
They correspond after Hadley returns home.  Ernest's letters is about his desire to establish himself as an author; not love letters.  He has heard aspiring writers go to Europe to be discovered.  One of his letters to Hadley begins like this, "Still thinking about Rome but what if you came along --as wife?"

They get married.  And move to Paris --instead of Rome-- she loves him, he is exuberant and vibrant. He sees in her the goodness truth, Hadley is good for him, is good for his writing.  Each lacks what the other offers.  It seems to be a perfect match.

Their life in Paris, despite Ernest's meager salary working for Toronto Star, is not too shabby.  They drink, socialize and travel well.  A big part of the book is about their trips to many different cities.  The most notable ones are the ski trips to Schruns, Austria and the bull fighting in Pamplona, Spain.
These trips strengthen his craft.  She is there for him, every step of the way, with little or no demand; her happiness is an extension of his.  Their friends, mostly the literary type, Gertrude Stein, Mike Strater, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald, and .... say Hemingways know how to do marriage.

But even the strongest marriages and the most understanding couples can be teased.   What Hadley does to keep him is unfathomable; but in the end she has to let him go. 

Ernest moves back to the States as an established author with his mistress, Pauline Pfeiffer.

If I had been interested in Hemingeway's marriages and affair I would have picked up "Moveable Feast".  I may still do that, because Paula McLain's novel, The Paris Wife, made me interested in the artist and the city in a whole different way.

A good read!

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