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Can an Uninteresting Character Sustain a Novel?,
This review is from: The Paris Wife: A Novel (Hardcover)
'Paris Wife' is the story of the first Mrs. Ernest Hemingway, Hadley Richardson. It covers their courtship and five year marriage during which Ernest struggled for recognition as a writer. The novel ends with his publication of 'The Sun Also Rises. During their brief five years together they drink heavily, hang out with famous people like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald and travel a lot from their home in Paris to Spain to Austria and back to Paris. During that time Hadley gives birth to Ernest's first son, endearingly nicknamed Bumby. The question, though, is whether a story that focuses on Hadley and is told from her point of view can be interesting enough to sustain a novel. My answer is yes and no. I found the first two-thirds of the novel not terribly interesting, because Hadley is not a terribly interesting person. Hemingway is egotistical, self-centered, jealous and a drunk. In a word he is an obnoxious bore (as are their circle of famous friends). Hadley is the long-suffering wife, a complete doormat for Hem. She has no life of her own, other than to create an atmosphere where the Great Man can work, and absorb the the abuse he dishes out including bringing his mistress Pauline Pfifer into their household. (Hadley sleeps with Hem at night, and Pauline has him in the afternoons in the room next door). It is not until the last third of the book when Hadley is attempting to save her disintegrating marriage that the book held any real interest for me. There is a poignancy and horror in watching Hadley accept first the presence of the mistress in their lives and then come to terms with the need to end the marriage.
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Initial post: Dec 10, 2011 7:31:52 AM PST
Perfect review. I just finished it and was trying to put it all into words how I felt. But you did it for me. I also felt Hadley completely uninteresting, and by the time I realized it, I just tried reading it for the information on Hemingway and co, and realized how much I didn't like any of them (its a good thing I don't choose books based on how I feel about a writer's life, or I'd never have read and enjoyed Sun Also Rises and Moveable Feast). Anyway, you took the words right off my fingertips.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2011 8:06:24 PM PST
L. Young says:
Thanks, Ash, for your kind comments.
Posted on Jan 1, 2012 12:44:48 PM PST
Minor point --- but I'd have been disappointed to read your review before I read the book as it does contain a spoiler (albeit a rather small one).
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 1, 2012 4:38:04 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 4, 2012 10:14:49 AM PST
L. Young says:
How can a review of a book that is biographical in nature contain a spoiler?? The facts of Hemingway's life are available for anyone to know.
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