The Paris Wife (review)

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. This applies to books and to people. While it’s true that you shouldn’t judge people on the way they look from the outside ( who am I kidding? We ALL do that), it isn’t the same for books. I judged a book by its cover and ended up liking it very much.


I bought the book at a time when I was taking French lessons and intrigued by anything even remotely French. I even spent half an hour looking for a novel in French, even though I knew I’d have to get someone to translate it for me.
So the book is called The Paris Wire and is written by Paula Mclain. You might not know her- which is fine, she isn’t that popular. This is the first novel in reading of hers so I don’t know her either except for what it says on her Wiki page. Apparently, she doesn’t write too much and has only written a few poetry collections, a memoir about her childhood life and another novel. And apparently this is the novel that made her famous. Good choice, see?


It’s a semi-fiction account of how Ernest Hemingway met his first wife Hadley Rihardson, and the ups and downs of their marriage life. I’ll leave you with the choice of calling it a fiction or a non-fiction novel. And even though Ernest Hemingway has written about his marriage in A Moveable Feast, Paula says ” that my intention became to push deeper into the emotional lives of the characters and bring new insights to historical events, while staying faithful to the facts”.

The story, at least the most part of it, takes place in Paris ( hence the name). It is written from Hadley’s perspective. She’s shown as a quiet child who didn’t have a great childhood. Her mom was a bit..intense? She was the boss of the house and was dominant in a non-appealing way. She was comparatively, closer to her dad, who committed suicide, by shooting himself with a gun. Then after sometime, her sister passes away and all these events made a mark on her, more like a scar that never faded.

She meets Ernest, initially not being blown away by him, thinking why someone would have Hemingway as a name. It wasn’t long before the fell for each other and even though a friend of hers warned her off Ernest, Hadley was blindly in love. Ernest seemed adventurous and polite and smart and all the good qualities you can think. He was very confident about his work and personally, how could you not like someone who was so passionate about their work? That passion changed into over ambitious-ness after a few years, but that’s something different.

So they get married and you are shown the financial struggles that they initially have to face since Ernest hasn’t got a proper job. Nevertheless, his belief in his work is steadfast and he continues to pen away and send his work to numerous editors. In Paris, they make friends, each one of them being portrayed a very different and interesting characters. But Hadley feels as though they are more Ernest’s friends than hers since they all are artists, of one sort or another. So she finds a group of her own, with three other girls, one of them who changes Hadley’s life forever. Also, the birth of their first child creates tension and stress rather than joy, probably because Ernest couldn’t believe how Hadley had gotten pregnant-he kept a freaking record of her cycles! Can you fucking believe it? This is the one thing I absolutely hated about Ernest and if he really did that in real life, he was SUCH an ass.

I would tell you what the twist is but then you won’t really read the novel. However, if you do know Hemingway, you can probably guess the ending. This book fulfilled my initial intention for buying it- it has some French words, which made me immensely proud of knowing them without having to open up google translate. But all in all, it’s a good novel. I find Paula’s description of their life very interesting. I don’t know what sources she used to give an awfully detailed version of Hadley’s feelings, her thoughts and ideas and certain insecurities she’s dealing with but they seem very real, almost like Hadley wrote the novel herself.

You will like this book if : you like Hemingway. All I knew about Hemingway, before the book, was that he was a good writer. Reading about his life made me curious to read more novels he had written, about Hadley or other details of his life. It made me respect him as a writer. But he was kind of a jerk. I mean, who keeps record of their wives’ cycles? Thank god he decided not to publish that!


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