The Paris Wife: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

“A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s—as a wife and as one’s own woman.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures the love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
 
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but...
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The Paris Wife: A Novel

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Overview

“A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s—as a wife and as one’s own woman.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures the love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
 
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
 
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
 
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
WINNER—BEST HISTORICAL FICTION—GOODREADS CHOICE AWARDS
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PeopleChicago Tribune • NPR • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Kirkus Reviews • The Toronto Sun • BookPage
 
Look for special features inside. Join the Circle for author chats and more.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Readers of Ernest Hemingway biographies, his The Sun Also Rises and posthumous memoir A Moveable Feast know at least the outlines of the novelist's relationship with his first wife Hadley Richardson. This rich novel fleshes out that connection, evoking the full rise, throb, and fall of the couple's relationship. As author Paula McClain tells their story, she immerses readers in the jubilation and excesses of Jazz Age, offering us telling glimpses into the lives of the Hemingway's volatile artistic circle. A truly accomplished historical novel; strongly affirmative early reader reports.

Library Journal
A young Miss Hadley Richardson, with high spirits and lovely auburn hair, meets a handsome aspiring writer named Ernest Hemingway. They marry and make their way to Paris, living in a squalid apartment and spending time in café society with fellow expatriates Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Beach. Though the post-World War I years offer a great deal of creative freedom for these idle Americans, self-indulgence is the code of the day. Will Hadley choose to step aside as literary success—and another woman—come to take their place in Ernest's life? In her second novel (following A Ticket To Ride), McLain creates a compelling, spellbinding portrait of a marriage. Hemingway is a magnetic figure whose charm is tempered by his dark, self-destructive tendencies. Hadley is strong and smart, but she questions herself at every turn. Women of all ages and situations will sympathize as they follow this seemingly charmed union to its inevitable demise. VERDICT Colorful details of the expat life in Jazz Age Paris, combined with the evocative story of the Hemingways' romance, result in a compelling story that will undoubtedly establish McLain as a writer of substance. Highly recommended for all readers of popular fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty., OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345521323
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 5,587
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Paula McLain received her M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Michigan and has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of two collections of poetry; a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses; and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives in Cleveland with her family.
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Read an Excerpt

ONE

The very first thing he does is fix me with those wonderfully brown eyes and say, "It's possible I'm too drunk to judge, but you might have something there."

It's October 1920 and jazz is everywhere. I don't know any jazz, so I'm playing Rachmaninoff. I can feel a flush beginning in my cheeks from the hard cider my dear pal Kate Smith has stuffed down me so I'll relax. I'm getting there, second by second. It starts in my fingers, warm and loose, and moves along my nerves, rounding through me. I haven't been drunk in over a year--not since my mother fell seriously ill--and I've missed the way it comes with its own perfect glove of fog, settling snugly and beautifully over my brain. I don't want to think and I don't want to feel, either, unless it's as simple as this beautiful boy's knee inches from mine.

The knee is nearly enough on its own, but there's a whole package of a man attached, tall and lean, with a lot of very dark hair and a dimple in his left cheek you could fall into. His friends call him Hemingstein, Oinbones, Bird, Nesto, Wemedge, anything they can dream up on the spot. He calls Kate Stut or Butstein (not very flattering!), and another fellow Little Fever, and yet another Horney or the Great Horned Article. He seems to know everyone, and everyone seems to know the same jokes and stories. They telegraph punch lines back and forth in code, lightning fast and wisecracking. I can't keep up, but I don't mind really. Being near these happy strangers is like a powerful transfusion of good cheer.

When Kate wanders over from the vicinity of the kitchen, he points his perfect chin at me and says, "What should we name our new friend?"

"Hash," Kate says.

"Hashedad's better," he says. "Hasovitch."

"And you're Bird?" I ask.

"Wem," Kate says.

"I'm the fellow who thinks someone should be dancing." He smiles with everything he's got, and in very short order, Kate's brother Kenley has kicked the living room carpet to one side and is manning the Victrola. We throw ourselves into it, dancing our way through a stack of records. He's not a natural, but his arms and legs are free in their joints, and I can tell that he likes being in his body. He's not the least shy about moving in on me either. In no time at all our hands are damp and clenched, our cheeks close enough that I can feel the very real heat of him. And that's when he finally tells me his name is Ernest.

"I'm thinking of giving it away, though. Ernest is so dull, and Hemingway? Who wants a Hemingway?"

Probably every girl between here and Michigan Avenue, I think, looking at my feet to keep from blushing. When I look up again, he has his brown eyes locked on me.

"Well? What do you think? Should I toss it out?"

"Maybe not just yet. You never know. A name like that could catch on, and where would you be if you'd ditched it?"

"Good point. I'll take it under consideration."

A slow number starts, and without asking, he reaches for my waist and scoops me toward his body, which is even better up close. His chest is solid and so are his arms. I rest my hands on them lightly as he backs me around the room, past Kenley cranking the Victrola with glee, past Kate giving us a long, curious look. I close my eyes and lean into Ernest, smelling bourbon and soap, tobacco and damp cotton--and everything about this moment is so sharp and lovely, I do something completely out of character and just let myself have it.


TWO

There's a song from that time by Nora Bayes called "Make Believe," which might have been the most lilting and persuasive treatise on self-delusion I'd ever heard. Nora Bayes was beautiful, and she sang with a trembling voice that told you she knew things about love. When she advised you to throw off all the old pain and worry and heartache and smile--well, you believed she'd done this herself. It wasn't a suggestion but a prescription. The song must have been a favorite of Kenley's, too. He played it three times the night I arrived in Chicago, and each time I felt it speaking directly to me: Make believe you are glad when you're sorry. Sunshine will follow the rain.

I'd had my share of rain. My mother's illness and death had weighed on me, but the years before had been heavy, too. I was only twenty-eight, and yet I'd been living like a spinster on the second floor of my older sister Fonnie's house while she and her husband Roland and their four dear beasts lived downstairs. I hadn't meant for things to stay this way. I assumed I'd get married or find a career like my school friends. They were harried young mothers now, schoolteachers or secretaries or aspiring ad writers, like Kate. Whatever they were, they were living their lives, out there doing it, making their mistakes. Somehow I'd gotten stuck along the way--long before my mother's illness--and I didn't know how to free myself exactly.

Sometimes, after playing an hour of passable Chopin, I'd lie down on the carpet in front of the piano and stare at the ceiling, feeling whatever energy I'd had while playing leave my body. It was terrible to feel so empty, as if I were nothing. Why couldn't I be happy? And just what was happiness anyway? Could you fake it, as Nora Bayes insisted? Could you force it like a spring bulb in your kitchen, or rub up against it at a party in Chicago and catch it like a cold?

Ernest Hemingway was still very much a stranger to me, but he seemed to do happiness all the way up and through. There wasn't any fear in him that I could see, just intensity and aliveness. His eyes sparked all over everything, all over me as he leaned back on his heel and spun me toward him. He tucked me fast against his chest, his breath warm on my neck and hair.

"How long have you known Stut?" he asked.

"We went to grade school together in St. Louis, at Mary Institute. What about you?"

"You want my whole educational pedigree? It's not much."

"No," I laughed. "Tell me about Kate."

"That would fill a book, and I'm not sure I'm the fellow to write it." His voice was light, still teasing, but he'd stopped smiling.

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing," he said. "The short and sweet part is our families both have summer cottages in Horton Bay. That's Michigan to a southerner like you."

"Funny that we both grew up with Kate."

"I was ten to her eighteen. Let's just say I was happy to grow up alongside her. With a nice view of the scenery."

"You had a crush, in other words."

"No, those are the right words," he said, then looked away.

I'd obviously touched some kind of nerve in him, and I didn't want to do it again. I liked him smiling and laughing and loose. In fact, my response to him was so powerful that I already knew I would do a lot to keep him happy. I changed the subject fast.

"Are you from Chicago?"

"Oak Park. That's right up the street."

"For a southerner like me."

"Precisely."

"Well, you're a bang-up dancer, Oak Park."

"You too, St. Louis."

The song ended and we parted to catch our breath. I moved to one side of Kenley's long living room while Ernest was quickly swallowed up by admirers--women, naturally. They seemed awfully young and sure of themselves with their bobbed hair and brightly rouged cheeks. I was closer to a Victorian holdout than a flapper. My hair was still long, knotted at the nape of my neck, but it was a good rich auburn color, and though my dress wasn't up to the minute, my figure made up for that, I thought. In fact, I'd been feeling very good about the way I looked the whole time Ernest and I were dancing--he was so appreciative with those eyes!--but now that he was surrounded by vivacious women, my confidence was waning.

"You seemed awfully friendly with Nesto," Kate said, appearing at my elbow.

"Maybe. Can I have the rest of that?" I pointed to her drink.

"It's rather volcanic." She grimaced and passed it over.

"What is it?" I put my face to the rim of the glass, which was close enough. It smelled like rancid gasoline.

"Something homemade. Little Fever handed it to me in the kitchen. I'm not sure he didn't cook it up in his shoe."

Over against a long row of windows, Ernest began parading back and forth in a dark blue military cape someone had dug up. When he turned, the cape lifted and flared dramatically.

"That's quite a costume," I said.

"He's a war hero, didn't he tell you?"

I shook my head.

"I'm sure he'll get to it eventually." Her face didn't give anything away, but her voice had an edge.

"He told me he used to pine for you."

"Really?" There was the tone again. "He's clearly over it now."

I didn't know what had come between these two old friends, but whatever it was, it was obviously complicated and well under wraps. I let it drop.

"I like to think I'm the kind of girl who'll drink anything," I said, "but maybe not from a shoe."

"Right. Let's hunt something up." She smiled and flashed her green eyes at me, and became my Kate again, not grim at all, and off we went to get very drunk and very merry.


I found myself watching for Ernest the rest of the night, waiting for him to appear and stir things up, but he didn't. He must have slipped away at some point. One by one nearly everyone did, so that by 3:00 a.m. the party had been reduced to dregs, with Little Fever as the tragic centerpiece. He was passed out on the davenport with long dark wool socks stretched over his face and his hat perched on his crossed feet.

"To bed, to bed," Kate said with a yawn.

"Is that Shakespeare?"

"I don't know. Is it?" She hiccuped, and then laughed. "I'm off to my own little hovel now. Will you be all right here?"

"Of course. Kenley's made up a lovely room for me." I walked her to the door, and as she sidled into her coat, we made a date for lunch the next day.

"You'll have to tell me all about things at home. We haven't had a moment to talk about your mother. It must have been awful for you, poor creatch."

"Talking about it will only make me sad again," I said. "But this is perfect. Thanks for begging me to come."

"I worried you wouldn't."

"Me too. Fonnie said it was too soon."

"Yes, well, she would say that. Your sister can be smart about some things, Hash, but about you, nearly never."

I gave her a grateful smile and said good night. Kenley's apartment was warrenlike and full of boarders, but he'd given me a large and very clean room, with a four-poster bed and a bureau. I changed into my nightdress then took down my hair and brushed it, sorting through the highlights of the evening. No matter how much fun I'd had with Kate or how good it was to see her after all these years, I had to admit that number one on my list of memorable events was dancing with Ernest Hemingway. I could still feel his brown eyes and his electric, electrifying energy--but what had his attentions meant? Was he babysitting me, as Kate's old friend? Was he still gone on Kate? Was she in love with him? Would I even see him again?

My mind was suddenly such a hive of unanswerable questions that I had to smile at myself. Wasn't this exactly what I had wanted coming to Chicago, something new to think about? I turned to face the mirror over the bureau. Hadley Richardson was still there, with her auburn waves and thin lips and pale round eyes--but there was something new, too, a glimmer of potential. It was just possible the sun was on its way. In the meantime, I would hum Nora Bayes and do my damnedest to make believe.


THREE

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen to find Ernest leaning lazily against the refrigerator, reading the morning newspaper and devouring half a loaf of bread.

"Did you sleep here?" I asked, unable to mask my surprise at seeing him.

"I'm boarding here. Just for a while, until things take off for me."

"What do you mean to do?"

"Make literary history, I guess."

"Gee," I said, impressed all over again by his confidence and conviction. You couldn't fake that. "What are you working on now?"

He pulled a face. "Now I'm writing trash copy for Firestone tires, but I mean to write important stories or a novel. Maybe a book of poetry."

That threw me. "I thought poets were quiet and shrinking and afraid of sunlight," I said, sitting down.

"Not this one." He came over to join me at the table, turning his chair around to straddle it. "Who's your favorite writer?"

"Henry James, I suppose. I seem to read him over and over."

"Well, aren't you sweetly square?"

"Am I? Who's your favorite writer?"

"Ernest Hemingway." He grinned. "Anyway, there're lots of famous writers in Chicago. Kenley knows Sherwood Anderson. Heard of him?"

"Sure. He wrote Winesburg, Ohio."

"That's the one."

"Well, with your nerve, you can probably do anything at all."

He looked at me seriously, as if he were trying to gauge whether I was teasing or placating him. I wasn't. "How do you take your coffee, Hasovitch?" he finally said.

"Hot," I said, and he grinned his grin, elastic and devastating.


When Kate arrived for our lunch date, Ernest and I were still in the kitchen talking away. I hadn't yet changed out of my dressing gown, and there she was sharp and fresh in a red wool hat and coat.

"I'm sorry," I said, "I won't be a minute."

"Take your time, you deserve a little indolence," she said, but seemed impatient with me just the same.

I went off to dress, and when I came back, Kate was alone in the room.

"Where did Nesto run off to?"

"I haven't the faintest," Kate said. And then, because she clearly read disappointment in my face, "Should I have invited him along?"

"Don't be silly. This is our day."

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 899 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 25, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    An enlightening, worthwhile read!

    The Paris Wife is the story of Ernest Hemingway's first of four marriages. It is told from Hadley Richardson's point of view. Hadley and Hemingway were married in 1921 and gave birth to his first son, John Hadley Nicanor "Jack" Hemingway in 1923. His nickname was "Bumby" and Mariel and Margaux Hemingway were his daughters.
    This is a wonderful read that gives us a new perspective of Ernest Hemingway's genius and life. This is a characterization of a flawed man through the eyes of his young, shy, pretty first wife. The Nobel Prize winning author appreciated the stability and grounding his wife had given him and later, after three other wives said of her..."I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her. She was the best and truest and loveliest person I have ever known." Those words made me tingle all over.

    38 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    BookHounds Loved It

    I was never a fan of Hemingway, but have always intrigued by his larger than life personality. Paula McLain has weaved a wondrous blend of fact and fiction to bring the story behind Hemingway's first wife and love Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. If you look at pictures of Hadley from her youth, you can see her looks very clearly in her granddaughters, Mariel and Margaux. I imagine she must have been stunning with an amazing personality and sense of humor to capture Hemingway's heart so thoroughly. McLain's theorizes these ideas fully in this fictional account of their romance based on letters, written accounts and Hemingway's story, The Sun Also Rises, based on his own experiences.

    This book is for anyone looking to revisit The Cafe Society in Paris during the 1920's. I got the feeling that while Hadley loved her husband dearly, she didn't really fit in with Cafe society since the lax morals didn't suit her upbringing. It is fascinating to read how she dealt with Hemingway's affairs and the fact that he brought his soon to be mistress, Pauline, into his home life. Hemingway must have been like a rock start in that world. It must have been amazing to live through such a time period.

    I am such a huge fan of books like this, that take fact and work out the details so a story can unfold. It reminded me of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan which I adored. It even makes me want to go back and reread Hemingway's work. Of course, this story couldn't have been written without the famous characters and it is a fascinating romantic tale. I received this book from the publisher at no expense in exchange for my honest review.

    26 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2010

    Compelling read: a literary time machine

    Paula McLain takes her reader on a voyeuristic journey into the dispair that haunted Hemingway. Through the voice of his first wife, Hadley,she shares the dark side of the much glorified bohemian lifestyle of American expatriates in Paris during the 1920s.

    McLain's writing has a beautiful simplicity. She creates for her reader a sense that she is Hadley and The Paris Wife is her memoir.

    18 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    Just tell us if the book is good!

    I'mso tired of people writing a review that tells you the whole story. People we have the overview for that! Furthermore, I do not wish to know your point of view about the story. Just tell us if you think its good or bad! Thank you!

    17 out of 85 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2011

    An Engaging Novel

    I liked The Paris Wife. It kept me reading and interested. It kept me questioning the characters as to what was fiction vs reality. We read this book for book club, and I feel we will have a lot to discuss. Hemingway was a difficult man. His self centeredness effected his relationships and thus he lost many a friend and lover. I would definitely recommend this book.

    16 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    Loved this book!

    I found this book narrated by Hemingway's first wife to be fascinating. Although this book is historical fiction, there is a great deal of "truth" in it. It is a wonderful, easy reading way to learn more of Ernest Hemingway. I felt so sorry for his wife at times, and at other times I wanted her to get tougher! This is a great read.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    excellent read

    I will admit that I did not know much about Hemingway prior to read this novel. Despite that, I found the subject matter to be very interesting - from Hemingway, to Hadley to their circle of friends and acquaintances. Not only did I greatly enjoy this book, but i am going to keep it.

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2011

    Very Good!

    I was surprised how much I loved book. I hated for it to end and missed reading it everyday.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    I LOVED IT!

    The author stays very true to documented stories and people in their lives at that time. I felt as though I was in the room with Hadley and Ernest and felt the love they had for each other and the heartbreak of the end of their marriage. The book has stayed with me for days after I have finished. What an interesting and bazaar time in history! This novel would be wonderful for a book club discussion.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    Couldnt finish.....

    I love to read, however this book was very dull. I was disappointed and wished i could have finished it. Not what i expected.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Anon

    THIS IS A VERY SUPERFICIAL BOOK. Read Michael Reynold's THe Paris Years, Kert'$ The Hemingway Women, Sokolof's book on Hadley or Diliberto's book on Hadley! ALL OF THEM ARE EXCELLENT!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2012

    This was such a dull book... I was very disappointed in it as I

    This was such a dull book... I was very disappointed in it as I thought it would be much more than Hemingway's wife Hadley complaining the whole time. I'm surprised on the high reviews this book has received.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2012

    Slow going

    Was tempted to give up several times. Superficial and disappointing.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2012

    I enjoyed reading this book so much that I was sad to see it end

    I enjoyed reading this book so much that I was sad to see it end. Eventhough I knew how things would eventually end, I was surprised by how much I was hoping that everything would work out for them. This was a wonderful piece of historical fiction.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Couldn't put it down

    Lovely novel with great insight as to life in Jazz Age Paris. You will easily be swept up into Ernest and Hadley's world and feel like you are there with them. Great book. Couldn't put it down. Well worth the time and money.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Poignant and beautifully written.

    I felt as if I was given a window to Paris in the 1920s. Although a heartbreaking story, I'm now inspired to read Hemingway's works.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Loved it - encouraged me to be more interested in Ernest and Hadley Hemingway bios.Recommending it to my Book Club.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2011

    Wonderful Book

    I was deeply moved by the story of The Paris Wife. I could feel all the emotions flowing through the pages. Anger, madness, confusion, joy, love,trust, distrust. It ran the gambit of emotions & feelings.

    As other's wrote, I didn't know alot about Ernest "Papa" Hemmingway. He was a remarkable man, talented and alot of the time lost in himself.

    You will definitely enjoy this read!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    The Paris Wife

    This allegorical novel uses rhe characters and events in the life of Hemmingway. The story has multiple levels for portrayal of the human condition. This is a very well crafted story of a couple loosing their interpersonal connection during the career building of the writer. However at a deeper level the seven deadly sins are showen to be the root of evil in the life of the writer. He sucumbs to all of them destroying himself in the process. Very well done indeed! Reread the Sun Also Rises as a companion to this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    The Paris Wife

    Definately recommend

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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