The Paris Wife is a fictionalized account of the marriage between Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway. It was a rocky marriage that lasted only 7 years, but it started with a great romance in Chicago and ended in an affair in Paris. Hadley was the first wife, and although Ernest married several more times, his account of his marriage to Hadley is beautifully treated in his work A Moveable Feast. Perhaps because he was such a louse when he was married to her?
Hadley is often referred to as the Paris Wife as the Hemingway couple spent most of their time together in Paris in the early days of Hemingway’s career. Hadley raised their son, practiced piano and patiently waited upon and tended to Ernest, who in turn ran amok with the European and American literati that included the likes of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although a fictional account, I enjoyed Paula McLain’s rendition of those crazy years in Paris post-WWII when everyone was running about and artists and writers were trying to make a name for themselves.
Hadley was Ernest’s sounding board and credited with making the space available for Hemingway to focus on making it big. The novel portrays this time as volatile. Post war, everyone was finding their place, including women. While many of the Hemingways’ female friends were working on their own careers, Hadley appeared keen to stay in the background in a supporting role to her husband, happily raising their baby boy. But although she is the doting wife, she’s sound of mind and body and a charmer in her own right. McLain certainly doesn’t portray all the females in the novel as so likeable.
Overall, a charming rendition of a heartbreaking relationship.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published by Bond Street Books (Doubleday Canada)