“Interesting people were everywhere just then. The cafés of Montparnasse breathed them in and out, French painters and Russian dancers and American writers. On any given night, you could see Picasso walking from the Saint-Germain to his apartment in the rue des Grands Augustins, always exactly the same route and always looking quietly at everyone and everything.”
The setting is Paris in the 1920’s. An American writer and his wife have settled in cramped quarters in the heart of bohemian society to hone his craft and live life to the fullest. The writer is Ernest Hemingway, his wife Hadley, is Hemingway’s first wife – the Paris wife.
How does a marriage survive in an atmosphere of anything goes? It doesn’t. In this eloquently written novel, Paula McLain delves into the lives of the Hemingways. We love with them, play hard with them and weep with them as their relationship falls apart. McLain touches on everything I love about a good book. She takes you back to an era of pushing boundaries in one of the most exciting cities on earth. Her characters are not only exciting, they are real people. The story is fascinating and really gets under your skin. And as if that wasn’t enough, McLain has a true gift in her use of the written word.
“In the end, Ernest didn’t have the luck I did in love. He had two more sons, both with Pauline, and then left her for another. And left that one for another, too. He had four wives altogether and many lovers as well. It was sometimes painful for me to think that to those who followed his life with interest, I was just the early wife, the Paris wife. But that was probably vanity, wanting to stand out in a long line of women.”
I loved The Paris Wife and am grateful to Paula McLain for sharing with me such a treasure of a novel.
4 1/2 stars
Published in 2011