Novel of the Week - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


How does it feel to be married to someone who’s determined to become the most famous author of all times? And how does it feel when you find out he’s going to be that author? If you want to know the answers then Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife” is what you need.

Here’s the plot (SPOILER ALLEART!) :
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Chicago. October, 1920. Hadley Richardson is having fun at her friend Katie’s house : there’s jazz music and alcohol (it was the era of Prohibitionism).  She’s a 28 years old discrete piano player and, after her parents’ death, she has been leaving with her sister and her family in the sleepy St. Louis. She doesn’t really know what to do with her life when she met a 20 years old boy, veteran from the Great War. He’s a good looking guy, with always a sad sparkle in his eye due to the horrors he had witnessed during the war. He presented himself as Ernest. Ernest Hemingway.

After a little time flirting by letters, Ernest writes that he has received a job offer in Paris as a correspondent in Paris for the Chicago Star newspaper, so they get married and then move in the Old Continent. They found themselves surrounded by the literary elite made of American authors and patrons, including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce.

Hemingway’s obsessed by being succesfull and famous and as his literary career goes up, his marriage goes in crisis.

This novel gives readers an inside look into one of the most beautiful but tragic love stories of all time (from Hadley’s point of view), but also a description of how life changed after World  War I. The couple didn’t stayed only in Paris, but traveled a lot. When their son was born, they were in  Canada and, every now and then, Ezra Pound invited them at his house in Italy. They stayed in Switzerland for a while as well as in Spain.
Unfortunately, their marriage ended up in divorce a few years later when Ernest and Hadley met Pauline Pfeiffer, who will become Ernest’s mistress and (some time later) his second wife.

It’s an exquisite novel filled with touching and smart dialogues and, if you love the Roaring Twenties as much as I do, you will fall in love with the amazing descriptions of places and clothes as well as the biography of one of the most famous but also most unknown authors of all the times.

My vote : 10/10

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