REVIEWED BY DEBS CARR
The Paris Wife is the story of Hadley Richardson, the first of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives. Hadley meets her future husband in 1920 when she’s twenty-eight. Up until that time she’s lived a quiet, secluded life and is only too thrilled to marry him and relocate with him to Paris where the couple soon become part of the enigmatic group of modernist writers and artists living in the capital. Their new friends include Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, and eventually they also meet up with F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda.
As a foreign correspondent, Ernest takes trips away from his wife. She hates being without him and finds it difficult to cope in his absence. When she falls pregnant Hadley is overjoyed. Ernest, on the other hand, isn’t ready for children and although he can’t help loving the baby who they nickname, Bumby, having him in their life causes their differences to intensify. Hadley loves it when Ernest takes time away from focusing on his writing so that they can spend time together. Most of the time though, he’s either writing, or drinking with his friends. Occasionally, they travel and rent rooms for weeks at a time.
Although he loves Hadley, Ernest is occasionally distant and often difficult. He suffers nightmares due partly to his experiences in The Great War and recurring depression makes life very unpleasant at times for Hadley. Beautiful models, aristocratic ladies and women far more sophisticated than she, became part of their ‘set’ making her jealous and unhappy when Hem pays them too much attention. It occurs to her though that at times his interest for these women can be more as characters for his novels rather than always being physically attracted to them. Their tempestuous relationship struggles at times and despite trying her hardest to accommodate his choices, Hadley dreads the time when she may be forced to do something she’d rather not do.
This is a well-researched novel, which reads for the most part like a fictional romance between two lovers. However, although some parts are intriguing and beautifully written giving a great sense of the era, others areas included a little too much detail and slowed down the story slightly.
Having recently visited Paris and a lot of the places the Hemingway’s frequented, notably Montparnasse and Sylvia Beach’s fascinating Left Bank bookshop, Shakespeare & Company, I enjoyed how the author brought these places to life and loved most aspects of this book.