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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is one of those fiction stories based on the truth, which really seems as if it is nonfiction. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. He met her in Chicago when she came to visit her friend, Kate Smith, who grew up with Hemingway. Kate and Hemingway had some kind of powerful teenage baggage together which was never clearly explained.
Hadley was old enough to be considered a spinster, but she must have been a pretty one because Hemingway fell for her almost immediately. Although she had no experience with men at all she had the confidence to get involved with Hemingway, who was not at all famous, but who already had a mission, a huge ambition, and great charisma all contained in a very handsome package. Hadley and Hemingway both had moms who were not great parents. According to the author Hemingway fell for Hadley because she had a sort of straightforward honesty and stability that he could trust.
Hadley and Hemingway almost go to Rome but they end up in Paris with Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and many more writers who either became very famous or who already are. This is how Hadley becomes known as the Paris wife. I wonder what would have happened if they had gone to Rome? They probably would still have been enticed to the scene in Paris.
The author has Hadley tell the whole story and she has this “gosh”, “darn”, “golly”, Midwest, 1920’s voice with all the correct jargon and catch phrases. I kept thinking I had heard this voice before somewhere, but I never could pin down where. The nearest I could come was the movie Some Like It Hot and I’m not sure about that. Read the book and see if you can figure out where you have heard that voice before. It’s a good book, you won’t mind reading it.
Before or after you read the book, see Midnight in Paris. Although Hemingway does not have Hadley in tow in Woody Allen’s movie, the time period is nearly the same and the two – book and movie – make a nice pair.