The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher: Virago
ISBN: 1844086682
Pages: 288
Published: 2012
Genre: historical fiction, memoir

SynopsisA deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Nightflier Speaks:
For over a month I have been trying to get down to write this review. Of course work creeps in and I hold back my thoughts. So today I take the guilty pleasure to write it down, at work, in between tasks. 

'The Paris wife' by Paula McLain is a timeless and devastating tale of people in love. Their rise and fall in love. It's the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson, who after a whirlwind romance got married and started a life together in Paris. The book derives a lot of original facts from interviews with Hadley. 

The book starts in Chicago, sails off to Paris, then back to Canada and back again to Paris, where things eventually come to a conclusion. But can love between two beings so deeply involved, come to a conclusion ? Probably not. But life moves on. And Paula's portrayal is so human, that at times one forgets that its 'Ernest Hemingway' and 'his wife'. Their domestic life, their friendships with other illuminati of the literature world, their fights, their love, their togetherness is depicted in such a wonderful way, that one gets drawn in the story. Despite knowing the end. There was a point where I got so involved that I wanted things to work out for the Hemingways. Alas!

Not just the story, but McLain's character portraits are spot on. The somewhat mercurial, deeply passionate, equally vulnerable Ernest, the slightly naive, slightly jealous, always troubled Hadley are the heros of the story. Equally well etched are the Fitzgeralds, Pauline Pfeiffer, Sherwood anderson, Gertrude Stein (and the lost generation). The lost ness of the characters, their utter inefficiency to lead normal lives are shown in a beautiful way. One feels captured by the charming Paris of those times, which is the 'third' person in the marriage. The premise where everything rises so beautifully and then succumbs to betrayal too.

As Hemingway's career and personal life soared in Paris in early 1920s, I felt elated and absorbed in the journey. But what must rise, must fall as well. The shattering realizations of a marriage going astray and love getting stolen, are equally heartbreaking. And the book made me feel all that and more. A very compelling read if one likes historical fiction.

Price: 339 INR (flipkart)
Rating: 5/5


  1. OMG!!! i love reading about the lives of writers written in d fictional genre. this i must read.

  2. This one is long on my wishlist .. loved the review .. tempted me lot to buy this asap :)

  3. I'm so picking this up. As Arpita says, there's something about reading about the lives of writers -fictional or otherwise- that completely blows my mind. Good work on the review.

  4. arpita : yup! have a feeling you would love it :)
    nimue : thanks :)
    icyhighs : thanks! yup! there is so much about hemingway's writing style/career in it!


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