The golden age of Paris for Ex-Pats
Paris in the 1920's was a mecca for a certain type of artist. We were able to meet some of them in Woody Allen's recent film, Midnight in Paris where Gil, the main character travels back in time. In the past he meets among others, Salvador Dali, Gertrude Stein and Zelda and Scot Fitzgerald. He also has several encounters with Ernest Heminway. Unfortunately for readers of The Paris Wife, there is not even a glimpse of Hadley Hemingway in the film.
The Paris Wife is written in Hadley's voice and is her story of her life in Paris with Hemingway before he was a famous author. Her time with him covers the period when he was part of a circle of creative and sometimes eccentric people who were at the center of Paris social life. They were only married for five years, but they were very important years for Hemingway as he was then an unpublished but ambitious and prolific author.
Hadley Richardson was 28 and caring for her invalid mother when she met the 21-yearold Ernest Hemingway in Chicago. They married fairly quickly and moved to Paris. He was probably attracted to her because of her calm and supportive demeanor. She was a strong woman supporting a troubled man suffering from PTSD who used alcohol as an escape. Using Hadley's perspective McLain vividly describes their lives in Paris as they hobnob with people who would later become famous.
Even though they lead fascinating lives - they take tea with Gertrude Stein and drinks with Zelda and F. Scot Fitzgerald - it is no surprise that the marriage was not a lasting one. There are many signs along the way that it is doomed. The birth of their son Bumby and Hemingway's infatuation with the woman who becomes his second wife signaled the end of the marriage. Hemingway always felt he owed Hadley something so he gave her all of the royalites from The Sun Also Rises.
This is an extensively researched and well written novel and will be of interested to anyone who has read the now classic novels of that era. But I found it even more interesting as one of the untold stories of women's lives. We can only speculate on what role Hadley Hemingway had in making Ernest the author that he became, but she deserves some recognition. There is much to discuss with this one; bookgroups should take note.