Pretty Reads: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Contains spoilers!*

This is one of those books that I kept picking up at the bookstore, and putting down again. After about the fourth time I did that, I recommended it for our book club. Somehow picking books for book club gets a bit stressful. What if it sucks and you made everyone buy it in HARDCOVER?!

Anyway, this book didn’t have to do a lot to get me to read it. It’s set in 1920s Paris and it’s about Hemingway. I was already on board before I read a single word. What makes this story a bit more interesting is that it’s written from the point of view of his first wife, Hadley.

Hadley can be incredibly frustrating at times but I can see how she would do the things she would do. Although Ernest had the affair, it’s as though she was already leaving the marriage before he had. I mean, who let’s the girlfriend go on holiday with you?! Too bizarre. I think she was a little too American and a little to down to earth to be happy in the circle for much longer.

He was obviously insecure and always trying to keep up with the crazy antics of his social circle. He was constantly seeking approval and if you didn’t give it to him you were cut out of his life (and Hadley’s by association). Plus, I can’t handle the whole idea that because you’re an “artist” you have free licence to be an asshole. Sorry but you and your art are not superior to everyone around you, regardless of what you’ve be told. Yet for some reason, I still felt for him. He definitely seemed lost. I suppose we have the benefit of knowing how his life had turned out before we read the book. That was the filter we read the book through.

Another great part of this book is how it makes you want to wiki every other writer or artist mentioned. I really don’t know that much about any of their personal lives but they sound ridiculous. Did James Joyce really have as many kids as they said? It was mentioned a couple of times that he had a hundred kids and was always walking around with them. lol. I just love that image. I also love the relationship between Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald. I actually know very little about them besides the fact that they’re the poster couple for the Jazz Age. I can’t wait to find out more.

Although I’m intrigued by their life, I’m not at all jealous of it. However, I’d have to admit that I am envious of all their trips. For people who claim to be “poor artistes”, they certainly got around. They were never starving or short of liquor so I don’t really know what they were complaining about. Plus they had a full time nanny. What a way to live.

This passage from the books sums it up nicely, “For years we’d been surrounded by triangles – freethinking, free-living lovers willing to bend every convention to find soemthing right or risky or liberating enough. I couldn’t say what Ernest felt watching their antics, but they seemed sad and even tortured to me.”‘

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts? What are your recommendations for 1920s lit? I’m adding a bunch to my Goodreads as we speak!


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