Bookish {- Adjective. 1. given or devoted to reading or study.} 2011

The Paris Wife - Paula McLain

I've been contemplating how to begin describing The Paris Wife to you. Without doing the novel disservice, my first impulse is to classify it as a Chick Lit-esque novel for non-Chick Lit readers. The writing's too good for me to leave it under the umbrella term without some explanation. The Paris Wife is the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, but unlike the version told in A Moveable Feast, this version is told from Hadley's perspective. As the life of Hemingway is so well documented, McLain pushes the jargon to a place where she can  fictionalize the emotional plane of the characters while remaining very true to the events that we know occurred. The writing is uniquely adjective-driven, in direct contrast with Hemingway's stark, masculine, verb-driven prose. In this way, structurally, McLain sets Hadley apart as "other" from Ernest and indirectly and immediately makes the reader aware that the intertwining of these lives is temporary. Not destined to be but distinctly and fundamentally different. Our protagonist is not the doomed "starter wife" but neither is she an insider in the roaring 20s Paris art scene with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald that her husband became encircled by. She's not an exhibitionist, but rather a smart, Midwestern girl with a good head on her shoulders and is slightly more practical than she wishes. We see Hemingway through new eyes; less macho, less swag, more humanistic (those traits that turn out to be blessings and curses) and how their brief but intense love story sorrily but surely, inevitably, unravels. The book is not life-changing, but the writing is good and moves quickly and fluidly. If you're planning on any sort of fun, summer adventure/travel reads to take with you pool-side, I think it would serve you to add this one to your list.

1 comment:

Rachel Swan said...

Hmmmm...I'm going to have to check this out. Maybe I'll save it for some light vacation reading.

I'm so happy you're still doing 45 books; I love knowing what you're reading and your thoughts on the books.

Have you ever read Border Music by Robert James Waller? It's one of my favorites. It's perfect if you're in a road trip, last cowboy, tragic love story kind of mood.