Hadley Richardson (1891-1979), Ernest Hemingway's first wife, was born into upper-class St. Louis society, the daughter of an alcoholic father who committed suicide and a mother who despised men. Drawing on Richardson and Hemingway's correspondence and her interviews with Richardson, Dilberto ( Debutante: The Story of Brenda Frazier ) presents an evocative portrait of their romance and five-year marriage (1921-1926). The book attributes the strength of Hemingway's early fiction to his love for Hadley, who supported him emotionally and financially, and theorizes that his subsequent personal problems stemmed from their breakup. Hadley credits Hemingway with giving her a capacity for joy and a sense of self. Their expatriate life in Europe was filled with literary friends, travels and hard drinking. A bittersweet story of young love steeped in the atmosphere of 1920's Paris. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Apr.)
A life of Ernest Hemingway's first wife and a quite moving return to A Moveable Feast; by the author of 1987's well-received Debutante: The Story of Brenda Frazier. Earlier Hemingway biographers have drawn Hadley Richardson Hemingway as a shadowy figure or as only one in a gallery of Hemingway women. Diliberto gives Hadley a body and importance that outweighs that of any other woman in the writer's life. Hemingway died working on an exquisite memoir of their marriage (a page for A Moveable Feast was found in his typewriter that morning) and—aside from Lady Brett—Hadley figured strongly in all his heroines. As he aged and his wives failed him, Hemingway's idealization of life with Hadley became a touchstone for youth and art, the fresh powers that once burned like ice under his fingernails, the taut strength unstrung by depression, alcohol, and electroshock treatments. Diliberto keeps her pages fresh with virgin material from Hadley's hundreds of letters to the writer during separations and after their divorce (she burned Hemingway's early letters to her when she remarried) and with many quotations from Hemingway's unpublished sketches and with rich outtakes from A Moveable Feast, which Mary Hemingway had vetted when shaping and retyping that book for publication. Here they are again, the Murphys, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude and Alice and Bumby and the running of the bulls at Pamplona, but seen through Hadley's eyes as Hemingway restrings his bow for his crossover from journalism to fiction and amazes everyone with the deadly intensity and icy clearness of his sentence. Diliberto shows as well how his unfinished novel, The Garden of Eden, reveals the snapped tensions oftheir marriage. Said Bumby, their son Jack Hemingway: "She was eight years older than Papa, and...the breakup...was a blessing. It took place while she was still an attractive and desirable woman...." Clich‚-free. Holds Hadley and Hemingway in a clean mirror full of Paris mornings. (Three eight-page photo inserts—not seen.)
Gioia Diliberto knew she wanted to be a writer ever since her days as a dreamy child who spent most of her free time scribbling stories in her room. These days, Diliberto pens inventive novels like I Am Madame X -- in which she imagines the story behind a painting that fascinated her for years.
Good To Know
In our interview, Diliberto shared some interesting anecdotes with us:
"I was one of those dreamy children who spent all of her spare time alone in her room writing stories. My first story -- I long ago forgot what it was about -- was published in my school newspaper, when I was eight. The school was Burning Tree Elementary in suburban Maryland, and the paper, mimeographed in smelly purple ink, was The Burning Tree Ash. I was so looking forward to seeing my name in print, but when the paper came out, another girl's byline was on the story! My teacher was as horrified as I was, and couldn't understand how this tragedy had occurred. She collected all the papers from our class and throughout the school. My mother was called in, and at the end of the day she and I sat in the principal's office with stacks of The Burning Tree Ash, crossing out the other child's name and writing in mine. The following morning, the papers were redistributed to the children, and I had a lovely time receiving congratulations from my friends. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a writer."
"I have lots of interests -- I practice yoga regularly, and I get teased about it regularly from my family. For years I've struggled to learn French, which I speak very badly, though not as badly as I play the piano."