Book Review: The Paris Wife

Ernest and Hadley, one year following their marriage.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Ernest and Hadley, one year following their marriage.

Emma Bauer, Staff Writer

I never thought of myself as a big reader of history. Was it cool sometimes? Sure, but not always.

Now, we have all heard of Ernest Hemingway, the famous writer and alcoholic, a man who was married multiple times, a man who ended his own life. This is where classic English literature and history collide: in The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

This book is not about Mr. Hemingway; no, this book is about his wife, seldom heard of, Elizabeth Hadley Hemingway, (neé Richardson and better known as Hadley rather than Elizabeth) who was eight years the senior of her first husband.

This fast paced novel details the meeting of Hemingway in the early 1920’s, their marriage, and escapades between Europe and the United States as Ernest tried to land a stable career as a big-name writer.

Furthermore, we get a lovely taste of the roarin’ twenties and how culture shaped people’s interactions: mostly over a lot of absinthe. We get to see Hadley crop her hair, as was extremely popular in that time, and feel pressured to fit in with Ernest’s several fearless, fabulous, flapper women-friends in their social circle.

In the beginning, the pair’s meeting was a fairytale level of perfect, at a party where (guess what) dancing, took place. It was characterized by low lighting, fast music, and shared smiles before a marriage soon followed.

Throughout the book, the relationship between Hadley and Ernest makes for an invigorating read, which left me, at least, turning the pages eagerly awaiting more. History buffs, you will be pleased to know that this work of historical fiction is indeed accurate to history. All facts remain true, and timing is pretty much on the nose.

Love twenties culture, history, literature, a mix of some or both? This just might be the perfect book for you.