The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Book Review

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

When Hadley Richardson met Ernest Hemingway, something was very clearly special not only about him, but about them together. Supportive from before his career truly began, Hadley married Ernest in order to follow him to Europe. Europe, particularly Paris, was the place to be for up and coming writers in the 1920s, so it was only natural that the ambitious young Hemingway would want to be there. Things are difficult for the young couple, money is extremely tight, and Ernest’s writing does not always come as quickly or easily as he hopes, but still, with a few introductions they are able to join the ranks of the bright young literati. This is a crowd, however, that Hadley never feels completely comfortable with. She is never more than the artist’s wife, never valued for herself, including – it increasingly seems – by Ernest.

The Paris Wife succeeded in making me want to check out Hemingway’s work, while at the same time cementing my inherent misgivings about him. Ernest was arrogant, stepping on his alleged friends and even using them and their work to advance his own. Hadley, though, was quite engaging. McLain balanced Hadley very well, making her not too modern and not too needy, but still very vulnerable and sympathetic.

A fascinating story with an engaging main character and great pacing, I can high recommend The Paris Wife.

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9 comments to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Book Review

  • I like Hemingway’s books, though I can understand why lots of people don’t. And I do think he was a difficult person “in real life.” THE PARIS WIFE is high on my wish list because I think it would be fascinating to have known him and to have been around that group of writers. I can also only imagine how difficult it must have been to be married to Hemingway. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • This is the first review I’ve read of this book. I’m very intrigued as I’ve long been a fan of Hemingway’s writing. Thanks!

  • Hemingway’s wives interest me far more than he does (I adore Martha Gellhorn) so I’m esp excited to read this book. Dying actually — your review has reminded me to find a copy!

  • Paris and Hemingway combined do sound like they’d make for a fascinating story.

  • I was curios about this book when I first saw it mentioned on your blog. It is an actual account of their relationship, or a fictionalized version?
    I’m reading another book that heavily discusses Hemingway, and it’s making me want to reread a lot of his work too.

    • It is definitely fiction, but as far as I can tell McLain did her research and tried to stick to their story. By the way, if you’re ever curious I do indicate genre in my tags of each review. I’m fairly certain I have this tagged as historical fiction.

  • I am glad you liked this because I thought it looked interesting, but just haven’t got around to tracking down a copy yet. In the meantime, positive reviews are a good thing. :)

  • Right after finishing this book, I read The Sun Also Rises, which is the novel that is referenced so much in The Paris Wife. It helped to finish Sun Also Rises, but as with most of Hemingway’s works, I was meh.

  • I have heard some great things about this book. And any book that inspires you to read more is always a success in my mind. I haven’t really read much Hemmingway but I have a feeling that reading this book will definitely make me want to.