Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Paris Wife

I love Hemingway. I don't love who he was as a person, but I love his writing. Almost a year ago, I read "A Moveable Feast," which is about his time in Paris during the early 1920s with his wife, Hadley. It had a major impact on me, and I now consider it one of my favorite books.
"The Paris Wife," by Paula McLain, is the fictional "she said" to Hemingway's "he said" in "A Moveable Feast." Parts of it are also very close to an unfinished novel published posthumously called "The Garden of Eden," and parts of it take place during his writing of "The Sun Also Rises."
I came very close to hating this book. I found myself asking "why?" Why was this book necessary when we already have Hemingway's first-person perspective on it? While that question still nags at me a little, I've mostly gotten over it. Hemingway was larger than life. To hear about that time of his life in his own words is, to me, priceless. Yet maybe it's important for us to look at it from the perspective of the women in his life; Hadley, in this case.
I think the reason I ended up loving "The Paris Wife" in the end is that it drove home that Hemingway never really got over Hadley. You get that sense in "A Moveable Feast," but "A Paris Wife" ties it all together. It also tells us what Hemingway did not: what happened to Hadley afterward. She went on to live a happy life without him, while he continued to struggle along in his relationships and wrestle with his inner demons, all the while continuing to produce some of the most brilliant literary work ever written.
I should also say that "The Paris Wife" is beautifully written. To write about Hemingway is a daunting task. If it had been poorly written, I would not have been very forgiving. But I think McLain really nailed this. She strikes me as someone who is well-versed in Hemingway's work, and it shows. She really nails the "voice" of Hemingway, which is such a strong part of his work. She really nails his style of writing dialogue, something I might not have noticed if it had been written differently, but I did take notice to how she utilized his same style. It was really well done.

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