on September 11, 2011
This meticulously researched book reads like a novel; so much that I could not put it down. Diliberto wrote it twenty years ago, so she was able to interview some of Hadley and Ernest's friends. One of those friends had actual tapes of conversations with Hadley herself. The author weaves the tapes, conversations, interviews, letters between Hadley and Ernest and other research into a beautifully written account of their lives together. Not only is it a love story, it transports you to Paris of the twenties. The Fitzgeralds, the Murphys, Getrude and Alice are all here, but presented from the unusual angle of bit players. I didn't read "A Paris Wife", so I can't compare the two books, but this one tells the real story. Loved it.
Why should we, as readers, be the slightest bit interested in Hadley Richardson, Hemingway's first wife?
One might make a convincing case - and Gioia Diliberto certainly does - that Hadley is the archetype for all the women in Hemingway's literature: Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises, Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, and Maria in For Whom The Bell Tolls. Hadley is the idealized Hemingway woman - stoic, smart, unpretentious, intelligent, devoted, romantic, and wounded.
Many of us received a tantalizing glimpse of her in Paula McLain's fictional book, The Paris Wife. Ms. Diliberto takes the portrait much further through her exhaustive research into their thrilling and doomed relationship.
In a finely-detailed depiction - to borrow Hemingway's phrase, one of the "truest" deconstructions of Hadley around, focusing strongly on "innocence lost" - Hadley emerges from the shadows of her far more famous ex-husband and reveals herself to be a fascinating person in her own right.
Ms. Diliberto reveals Hadley's dysfunctional upbringing, living with her anti-male, strong-willed, manipulative mother and sister, and exploring the commonalities that "twinned" Ernest and Hadley together - the desire to break free of domineering mothers, the fraternal suicides that haunted them, the bouts with depression, the lack of sexual experience, and the overriding love of art.
The author had access to more than one thousand pages of Hadley's letters to Ernest - as she reveals in her preface - and it shows. This book is not just interpretative but also a revelation of Hadley in her own words - from their separated courtship, their adventures in Paris at the center of the literary expatriates, their baby Bumby, and ultimately, the dissolution of their union as a result of Hemingway's self-destructive cheating.
"I would never have written any of them In Our Time, Torrents, or The Sun if I had not married you and had your loyal and self sacrificing and always stimulating and loving," Ernest wrote to Hadley after he left, calling her "the best and truest and loveliest person that I have ever known." The mind boggles in thinking what he could have created if he had remained with her. Hemingway himself realized it: `I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her."
As fascinating as fiction - but so much more powerful because it's fact - Paris Without End is riveting reading for anyone who wants true insight into Hemingway's psychodynamics and the female characters he creates. Hadley Richardson is as stunning as any character in fiction, including Hemingway's own.
on November 1, 2011
Never a big Hemingway fan, I read this very interesting book following the reading of "A Paris Wife", a fictionalized version of the same material.
This is a very thorough account, well documented, of Hemingway's first marriage. If you're not into character development detail, I suppose you would find this tedious, but it is revelatory and fascinating to those who are.
Hemingway's desertion of Hadley, who seems to have been about the best wife and friend a man could wish for is a truly tragic story that grips the heart and makes one sad for all involved, not lease Hemingway himself.
At some point one should also read Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" for completion.
on November 1, 2011
I have to ask the reviewer a question who is warning people on this site to "BEWARE! This book is a reprint of the same book that came out in the early 90's": What? Do you really think that reprinting a book is a really sneaky thing to do? What is your point? That books should never be re-issued? Wow, that would sort of rule out Hemingway himself, wouldn't it? Shakespeare too. Well, most of literature actually. Yes, it is the same book which was a fascinating read 20 years ago and still is today--maybe it is even more timely today. It comes with a new introduction, author interview and book club format and a new cover--tastes change, things change, and Diliberto's book has a few changes as well. But it is the same fascinating, meticulously researched and blast of a read it has always been, and fyi, much of that new book/novel out there (The Paris Wife) was lifted from Diliberto's, so the writer of the novel The Paris Wife obviously knows a good thing when she reads it (and steals it) as well. Diliberto has written a stunning tour de force here and I for one am so glad to see it being read and appreciated all over again. Try reading the introduction for some enlightenment Larry Belcher.
on November 28, 2011
I bought this book after having heard that much of the (to my mind, over rated) "The Paris Wife" derived from it. Still, my interest had been piqued by TPW enough that I wanted to learn more. It doesn't matter that it was written 20 years ago, facts are still facts.
I found this much more interesting than TPW but it didn't do much for my respect for Ernest Hemingway. What a self-centered, pity-party jerk---very much like the caricature in the movie "Midnight in Paris." Hadley was well rid of him. But a couple of things struck me, re our changing value system: one, that no one seemed to have much to do except drink and wander aimlessly; the 'golden age' was actually rather boring. Second, poor little Bumby was pretty neglected, even to his father handing him over to a train porter to take back to Paris at one point. Time after time Hadley and Ernest plopped him with someone so they could go off for a month or two, in spite of their declarations about how much they loved him. Later in an interview he admitted he didn't see much of them while growing up. Well, at least when he grew up he got rid of that moniker "Bumby." It's revealing that Ernest kept calling him that even when he asked him not to.
The question of the lost manuscripts will always be a mystery. But I seem to be reviewing the characters, not the book, and that isn't fair. The author did a very good and thorough job of tracking down just about everything in Hadley's life. Oddly, I found her life before she took up with Ernest to be more interesting, at least as a mirror of what was going on in American society at the time, and what women's options and concerns were. She was born at the tail end of the Victorian era but was an adult in the Jazz age---interesting transition.
Enthusiastically recommended for anyone who wants to know more about the era and the young Hemingway.
on April 15, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. Earlier this year, I read Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and was introduced to Hadley Richardson, Hemingway's first wife. A Moveable Feast tells of Ernest, Hadley, and their son (called Bumby) living in Paris as ex-pats. The book was published posthumously and gives a very positive picture of the Hemingways' marriage and time among the literary elite in the salons of Paris.
This book covers Hadley's entire life from growing up in St. Louis to her courtship with a handsome, young Hemingway to marriage and the birth of her son to Hemingway's infidelity to their divorce to the rest of her life. There was so much going on during this time period with regard to women and their role that it was really fascinating to learn more about this women who was right there as her husband wrote some of his great works. Hadley is of course fascinating in her own right and it was very interesting to see where she came from and why she was the way that she was.
The honest truth is had Hadley not married Hemingway, she would probably not have been worthy of study. But she was married to this formidable writer and sometimes we can't reach our whole potential without having a great support system and Hadley was that for Hemingway as Paris Without End shows. She really pushed him to write and to be involved with the literary world. She also inspired some of his works and characters. This isn't to say that Hemingway would not have become a great writer if Hadley hadn't been behind him but it is way more difficult to reach an already difficult goal if you don't have someone supporting you and cheering you on as Hadley did for Ernest.
Diliberto does a great job of pulling the reader into Hadley's story. The book is very accessible and often reads like fiction for those that don't like to venture into non-fiction or biographies very often. Hemingway fans will definitely appreciate this book but even if you aren't really a die hard Hemingway fan, this is still a great biography of one of the women behind one of the most well known and beloved American writers of all time.
Bottom line: History buffs, Hemingway lovers, and biography fans will all find much to love about this book!
"Paris without End," is a new literary nonfiction biography of Hadley Richardson, the iconic first wife of beloved 20th century American author Ernest Hemingway. It was written by Gioia Diliberto, veteran author/journalist, who points out in her preface to the 2011 edition that once there was hardly a woman considered worthy of a biography, at all. And then, even when the lives of some outstanding women began to be studied, nobody thought, for a long time, of looking at the wives of outstanding men. Despite that familiar old adage, `behind every great man there's a great woman.' It is only now being recognized that some wives were indeed instrumental in their husbands' successes; and it's Diliberto's thesis, based upon Hemingway's copious writings, that Hadley Hemingway was one. Still, there's no question but that Hadley would not reward study were she not Hemingway's first, template-setting wife. And there's no question but that this book will most interest Ernest Hemingway fans. After all, although Hadley can be credited with inspiring her husband's writings, and creating an environment in which he could work, she never published a line.
The period after World War I, never mind that the generation that lived through that war chose to call itself the Lost Generation, was full of new developments. Suffragism -- the fight for women's rights--was in the air, as was prohibition. Flappers emerged: women cut their hair and their skirts, took up smoke and drink, and danced on the tables of their favorite speakeasies. Paris was the world center of creativity. In the art world, greatly famous painters were there: the Spanish Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miro; Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall. In the literary world, there were almost too many stars to count: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, James and Nora Joyce, Sarah and Gerald Murphy, T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Ford Madox Ford, and whoever: at one time Ford had a ménage a trois with his common law wife and the great 20th century female author Jean Rhys. And then there was Sylvia Beach and her book store, Shakespeare & Co. In fact, there were so many artistic and literary notables there that they kept Owen Wilson, the Woody Allen stand-in in Midnight in Paris quite busy.
Like so many others in the period, Hadley and Ernest expatriated themselves to Paris. And Hadley and Hem were certainly a golden couple while they were happy and poor, living on Hadley's trust funds, and in the home she made for them, exploring Europe, and playing with their little boy, known as Bumby, when he arrived. Everyone seemed to expect that Hem was bound for literary glory. Of course, there were some problems. In an act that may have foreshadowed the future, and was heavily influential at the time, Hadley lost all copies of her husband's first novel. And then there was the disastrous summer with the Murphys on the French Riviera. Bumby got whooping cough, had to be quarantined, and so was poor Hadley. Meanwhile, Ernest was creating a ménage a trois with another St. Louis native--Hadley was a St. Louis girl herself --Pauline Pfeiffer, editor at Paris Vogue, a woman whose name has gone down in villainy for breaking up the marriage. (Hemingway's third wife Martha Gellhorn, a noted journalist at the time, was also a St. Louis native: it must have been something in the water of the Mississippi.)
The author gives us an interesting look at all these women:" Among expatriates in literary circles, there was a prejudice against women who were merely `wives'--a term ... that `applied not just to legal spouses, but to all women who attached themselves to a dominant partner.' Many of the `wives' like Stella Bowen [who lived with T.S. Eliot] and Ada MacLeish, a singer, had careers of their own. Those who didn't have talent and ambition nevertheless often adopted the trappings of artistic freedom, the most destructive of which...'was the freedom to explore erotic and emotional relationships outside marriage.'" Hadley was a devoted mother and wife, "a conventional woman surrounded by hedonists, who...'flaunted their promiscuity and joked about their abortions and venereal disease.'"
At any rate, the Hemingways had a passionate, affectionate marriage. Hadley was always faithful to her husband, and those who knew the couple thought Hemingway was always faithful to her, until Pauline came into the picture. And, in the posthumously published A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, Hemingway said, "I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her." The Chicago-based Diliberto frequently mentions the solid Midwestern values of Hadley and Hem. But Hadley was from St. Louis, and Hem from Chicago. Wouldn't these be considered major urban metro areas?
The author did a great deal of research to produce this work, Scores of interviews with those who knew the prime actors, she says, including the couple's son Jack, formerly known as Bumby, in his home in Ketchum, Idaho, Hemingway's last home. And Hadley's nieces Dodie Hess and Fonchen Lord; her nephew Richard Usher. Furthermore, the writer found many hours of tapes made of conversations between Hadley and her friend, musician/writer Alice Sokoloff, who published the first, timid biography of Hadley, while she was still alive. Finally, the author had first look at more than 1,000 letters written by Hadley to Hem during their intense courtship: the famous man held on to them all his life. Although sometimes the extensive quotes from these materials are repetitive, and hold up, rather than advance, the narrative. Diliberto is the author of the biographies A Useful Woman: The Early Life of Jane Addams (Lisa Drew Books) and Debutante: The Story of Brenda Frazier, and the historical novels I Am Madame X: A Novel and The Collection: A Novel. I liked this book much better than Paula Mc Lain's recent fictional The Paris Wife: A Novel, which was apparently inspired by it: it gives us a much deeper, more detailed picture of the woman at the center of one of the great literary storms of the 20th century. Worth reading, perhaps even for those not Hemingway fans.
Gioia Diliberto's biography of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, is a wonderful narrative of the Nobel Prize winner's muse. It is well-documented with 40 pages of notes detailing specific citations of information, many of them from primary sources. A 14 page index provides locations devoted to all the major figures in the enduring love story. There is a "conversation" with the author and a reader's guide is provided.
Hadley and the younger Ernest were high energy young adults when they were married, each influenced for a lifetime by their Midwestern family upbringing. Both enjoyed outdoor activities (hiking) and sports (skiing). They also developed habits of drinking, and smoking in Hadley's case, that increased as they went from economic hardship to affluence. Hadley was a drinking partner for Ernest during their 5 years of marriage, and this contributed to the novelty and fun of moving from the US to living in Europe. Both were able to party every night and still get up in the morning full of energy and enthusiasm. Ernest had a focal point of writing and Hadley supported this without a meaningful one of her own.
I found in Paris Without End that there were positive factors in the intense relationship between Hadley and Ernest that support the idea that Hadley was a muse for him. These positives became overshadowed by negatives as the marriage began to unravel. First, dependence on alcohol was a major influence on the marriage and Ernest's writing. This can be observed in the nostalgia concerning the relationship Ernest described so eloquently in A Moveable Feast. In addition to short stories written during the cafe life Paris years, The Sun Also Rises was completed during the early years of the marriage. It is a novel focusing on partying and complicated relationships of expatriate friends mirroring Hadley and Ernest's activities. The young couple definitely lived the high life with little money required in Paris, fueled by alcohol. The problem with this is that drinking took its destructive toll even though the two were remarkably resilient.
A second positive is that Hadley was a good sport. She went along with Ernest's desire for traveling and his efforts to meet as many writers and artists as possible. A common misinterpretation is that Hadley was a drag on Ernest's hypomanic interests. The truth is just the opposite. She participated in Hemingway's constant movement and interaction even though she was marginalized by the artistic crowd because she did not have a creative focal point of her own. Oddly enough, Hadley was a very good piano player, an artist in her own right, who appeared to have stage fright. She could practice for hours but then backed out of concerts when it came time to perform.
A third positive that backs the idea that Hadley was a muse was her support for Ernest's writing. Even though his style was ground-breaking and changed the direction of literature, it was not well-received at first. His early short stories were rejected many times. Hadley read all of his work and suggested that he write in a straight-forward minimalist style cutting out the embellishments of contemporary writers. This was very helpful to Ernest's persistence in establishing his unique approach to story telling. An unexpected problem in this area had a major influence in the decline of their relationship. Ernest earned money during the rejection period by working as a correspondent for newspapers. On one assignment when the couple were separated, Ernest asked Hadley to join him on location. Hadley gathered up all of Ernest's work in progress (including the carbon copies) and took a train from Paris to meet him. The bag containing the manuscripts was stolen, and almost all of the work was lost. Ernest forgave Hadley, but the lack of trust in her seemed to decrease Ernest's love for her in a permanent way.
The last positive was Hadley's pregnancy, a great surprise for both of them, even though they were aware of a time of carelessness in their birth control methods that allowed for the conception. The birth of their son gave Hadley a focus of her own that she had not had during early part of the marriage. Hadley had mostly given up practicing her piano playing. Both Hadley and Ernest loved "Bumby" very much and delighted in his early development. As with the other three positives, this turned to a negative influence when Bumby became ill and had to be quarantined. This led to Hadley reducing her social and physical activity to some extent while Ernest seemed to increase his drinking and socializing. This restriction of Hadley's movements and interaction may have opened the door enough for the journalist Pauline Pfeiffer, Ernest's second wife, to compete with Hadley and eventually win him over.
Ernest's work was a constant focus, but Hadley's roll as muse seemed to diminish over time. It is clear, though, that Hadley had a lasting effect on Ernest's best writing. His 3 greatest works (The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls) are partly love stories that reflect Ernest's attitude toward love and marriage he developed during his 5 year marriage to Hadley. Gioia Diliberto's book is a biography that reads like a novel. The factual account, however, is reliable and valid with a minimum of speculation. For readers who like learning about the lives of great writers, I highly recommend that they read this interesting and enjoyable book.
on July 19, 2012
This is a phenomenal, well-written look at a part of Hemingway's life that has been cast in the shadows of time, the story of Hadley and Ernest. It reveals more than just the personal relationships of the two people but is a reflection of the mad scramble for a taste of Paris by writers and artists and the wanabees, commingled with serious, down-to-earth work and abandoned, reckless play. This provides an insight into the young Hemingway and how it came to be that his expectations for himself worked for and against him in a double-edged manner. Hadley had an important role in his life and work. This book reveals the importance of letters of introduction -- they came in handy when on a low budget!
on February 17, 2012
Gioia Diliberto's re-release of her meticulously researched, deeply sensitive and moving biography of Hadley Richardson reads like a Hemingway novel, filled with description and conversational tidbits from the people themselves, and with the ever present cloud of tragedy and death lurking, as it does in many peoples' true lives, just below the small talk.
As Hemingway's first son, and Hadley's only child, notes in it, it was probably good for Hadley that Hemingway left her when he did. And it was probably bad for Hemingway, as the writer himself noted in his memoir of his youth in Paris, "A Moveable Feast."
"Paris Without End" paints a well-rounded portrait of a true muse, an artistic ideal of a woman who is equally supportive and opinionated, loving and critical, lover and friend, mother and sister, spouse and girl friend.
To set the scene, Diliberto takes you to Hadley's origins, in St. Louis. The same origins, we learn, as all but the last of Hemingway's four wives. In fact, she quotes a Hemingway note to Hadley long after their divorce, and his divorce from Pauline Pfeiffer, and his divorce from Martha Gelhorn--whose father was, we learn, Hadley's gynecologist--indicating that you'd think he'd try to marry someone who wasn't from St. Louis.
I won't rehash the wealth of detail revealed in this excellent biography, which I consider equally and easily on a par with Amanda Vaill's "Everybody Was So Young," about the financial backers of the "Lost Generation," a phrase Hemingway brought into the lexicon by quoting Gertrude Stein's comment about his generation.
But I will suggest if "Midnight in Paris" made you curious, and you want to feel like you're hopping aboard that beautiful Lincoln limousine to peer into the private life of a man who many believe changed at least American literature from the adorned writing of Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville, you should buy this book.
And, you should read it.