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The Paris Wife (Random House Reader's Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel by [Paula McLain]
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The Paris Wife (Random House Reader's Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 3,606 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author Paula McLain on The Paris Wife
Most of us know or think we know who Ernest Hemingway was -- a brilliant writer full of macho swagger, driven to take on huge feats of bravery and a pitcher or two of martinis -- before lunch. But beneath this man or myth, or some combination of the two, is another Hemingway, one we’ve never seen before. Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, is the perfect person to reveal him to us -- and also to immerse us in the incredibly exciting and volatile world of Jazz-age Paris.

The idea to write in Hadley’s voice came to me as I was reading Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, about his early years in Paris. In the final pages, he writes of Hadley, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” That line, and his portrayal of their marriage -- so tender and poignant and steeped in regret -- inspired me to search out biographies of Hadley, and then to research their brief and intense courtship and letters -- they wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of delicious pages to another!

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Hadley, and through her eyes, with the young Ernest Hemingway. He was just twenty when they met, handsome and magnetic, passionate and sensitive and full of dreams. I was surprised at how much I liked and admired him -- and before I knew it, I was entirely swept away by their gripping love story.

I hope you will be as captivated by this remarkable couple as I am -- and by the fascinating world of Paris in the 20’s, the fast-living, ardent and tremendously driven Lost Generation.

A Look Inside The Paris Wife


Ernest and Hadley Hemingway, Chamby, Switzerland, winter 1922

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway on their wedding day, 1921

Ernest, Hadley, and Bumby, Schruns, Austria, 1925

The Hemingways and friends at a cafe in Pamplona, Spain
Guest Reviewer: Helen Simonson on The Paris Wife

Helen Simonson is the New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. She was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics and former travel advertising executive, she has lived in America for the past two decades. After many years in Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area.

Paula McLain has taken on the task of writing a story most of us probably think we already know--that of a doomed starter wife. To make life more difficult, McLain proposes to tell us about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, who is a twenty-eight-year-old Midwestern spinster when she marries the twenty-one-year-old unpublished, (but already cocksure) writer and runs off to Paris with him. The talent and joy of this novel is that McLain does a startling job of making us understand this as a great love story and seducing us into caring deeply, about both Ernest and Hadley, as their marriage eventually comes apart.

This novel moves beyond the dry bones of biography or skewed personal vision of memoir, and takes a leap into the emotional lives of these characters. It is a leap of faith for those readers who think they know Hemingway, but McLain’s voice sticks close enough to historical material, and to the words and tone of Hemingway’s own writing, to be convincing. She had me at the description of young Hadley’s father committing suicide.

“The carpets had been cleaned but not changed out for new, the revolver had been emptied and polished and placed back in his desk.”

Hadley is also crippled by a childhood fall and trapped into spinsterhood by her mother’s declining health and eventual death. By the time she meets Hemingway, we are rooting for her to make a break for foreign shores--even as we understand the danger of marrying a tempestuous man. Hemingway is all nervous purpose, ambition and charisma as he meets Hadley and is drawn to her quiet strength and ordinary American sweetness. In his youth and uncertainty, she is his rock and yet we already suspect that as he grows in artistic power, she will become an unwanted anchor. Through Hadley’s eyes and plain-speaking voice, we see all of twenties Paris and the larger-than-life artists who gather in the cafes. We drink tea with Gertrude Stein and champagne with Fitzgerald and Zelda. We run with the bulls in Pamplona and spend winters in alpine chalets. And we see, through her love for him, the young writer becoming the Hemingway of legend. Perhaps it is the nature of all great artists to be completely selfish and obnoxious, but Hadley’s voice is always one of compassion. Even as Hemingway leaves her completely out of The Sun also Rises, even as Hemingway publicly flirts with other women, she continues to explain and defend him. It is a testament to Paula McLain that the reader is slow to dislike Hemingway, even as he slowly and inexorably betrays Hadley’s trust.

I loved this novel for its depiction of two passionate, yet humanly-flawed people struggling against impossible odds--poverty, artistic fervor, destructive friendships--to cling on to each other. I raise a toast to Paula McLain’s sure talent.

--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Review

“McLain smartly explores Hadley's ambivalence about her role as supportive wife to a budding genius.... Women and book groups are going to eat up this novel.” —USA Today

By making the ordinary come to life, McLain has written a beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s — as a wife and one's own woman.... McLain's vivid, clear-voiced novel is a conjecture, an act of imaginary autobiography on the part of the author. Yet her biographical and geographical research is so deep, and her empathy for the real Hadley Richardson so forthright (without being intrusively femme partisan), that the account reads as very real indeed.” —Entertainment Weekly

Written much in the style of Nancy Horan's Loving Frank ... Paula McLain's fictional account of Hemingway's first marriage beautifully captures the sense of despair and faint hope that pervaded the era and their marriage.” —Associated Press

Lyrical and exhilarating . . . McLain offers a raw and fresh look at the prolific Hemingway. In this mesmerizing and helluva-good-time novel, McLain inhabits Richardson’s voice and guides us from Chicago—Richardson and Hemingway’s initial stomping ground—to the place where their life together really begins: Paris.” —Elle

“McLain’s vivid account of the couple’s love affair and expat adventures will leave you feeling sad yet dazzled.” —Parade

“Told in the voice of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, is a richly imagined portrait of bohemian 1920s Paris, and of America literature’s original bad boy.” —Town & Country

Novelist and memoirist Paula McLain traces the life of Hadley Hemingway, first wife of Ernest Hemingway, in this evocative novel set largely in Paris in the Jazz Age.” —Christian Science Monitor

McLain's novel not only gives Hadley a voice, but one that seems authentic and admirable.... A certain amount of bravery is required in writing a novel that channels a giant of American literature. Yet McLain pulls it off convincingly, conveying Hemingway's interior life and his profound struggles. She makes a compelling case that Hadley was a crucial (and long-lasting) influence on Hemingway's writing life: a partner as well as a cheerleader. She also revisits, with remarkable detail, a singular era in history, one that would produce some of the greatest literary works of the 20th century.” —Newsday

“Engrossing and heartbreaking.... McLain is masterful at mining Hadley's confusion and pain, her crushing realization that she cannot fight for a love that has already disappeared.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A well-crafted novel ... Paula McLain is a master at creating narratives that are so lively, they seem to leap from the printed page.” —Tucson Citizen

“One of the most important books of this year. McLain is a novelist to watch.” —Naples Daily News

"The Paris Wife is mesmerizing. Hadley Hemingway’s voice, lean and lyrical, kept me in my seat, unable to take my eyes and ears away from these young lovers.  Paula McLain is a first-rate writer who creates a world you don’t want to leave. I loved this book."  —Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank

"After nearly a century, there is a reason that the Lost Generation and Paris in the 1920’s still fascinate.   It was a unique intersection of time and place, people and inspiration, romance and intrigue, betrayal and tragedy.   The Paris Wife brings that era to life through the eyes of Hadley Richardson Hemingway, who steps out of the shadows as the first wife of Ernest, and into the reader’s mind, as beautiful and as luminous as those extraordinary days in Paris after the Great War."   —Mary Chapin Carpenter, singer and songwriter

“Despite all that has been written about Hemingway by others and by the man himself, the magic of The Paris Wife is that this Hemingway and this Paris, as imagined by Paula McLain, ring so true I felt as if I was eavesdropping on something new. As seen by the sure and steady eye of his first wife, Hadley, here is the spectacle of the man becoming the legend set against the bright jazzed heat of Paris in the 20s. As much about life and how we try and catch it as it is about love even as it vanishes, this is an utterly absorbing novel.” —Sarah Blake, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress

"McLain offers a vivid addition to the complex-woman-behind-the-legendary-man genre, bringing Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, to life.... The heart of the story--Ernest and Hadley's relationship--gets an honest reckoning, most notably the waves of elation and despair that pull them apart." —Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

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Top international reviews

Marguerite
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, but such unlikeable protagonists it reaffirmed my resolution not to read any more Hemingway
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 6, 2017
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Sue Almond
3.0 out of 5 stars The First Mrs Hemingway's story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 7, 2017
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Shelley Day
5.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to give it six stars!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 24, 2016
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little bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and insightful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 13, 2014
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DubaiReader
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous view of 20's Paris
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 26, 2012
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Cheshire Tiger
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Something
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 7, 2013
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Mrs J Gernon
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you love too much?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 13, 2018
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WillerbyMum
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 5, 2015
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Titania78
3.0 out of 5 stars A new take on Ernest Hemingway
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2012
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Helena Halme Author
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, atmospheric novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 17, 2012
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Justine Solomons
4.0 out of 5 stars The things we do for love
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 25, 2012
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wiltshirelass
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Moving
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 30, 2013
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H. M. Sykes
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book, so true to life, unputdownable!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 8, 2013
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SBs
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging tale set in the 1920's
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 27, 2014
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Grace Noted
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paris Wife
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 20, 2012
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