Sunday, May 08, 2011
THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain, 2011 audiobook, Random House
THE PARIS WIFE is Hadley Richardson's perspective on her life with Ernest Hemingway and what a fresh, compelling voice Paula McLain has created for her. We meet the dashing newspaperman as Hadley does at a party in Chicago in 1920. She is the archetypal older woman, though only by a handful of years. Through a courtship of letters and train journeys, they confide their dreams to each other and at times it feels as if you are eavesdropping on their lives, even moreso for me since I listened to the audiobook, convincingly read by Carrington Macduffie.
For anyone who has read either THE SUN ALSO RISES or A MOVEABLE FEAST, the life that the Hemingways share in Paris and in Pamplona will feel very familiar. McLain masterfully uses setting and circumstance to create the entirely credible backstory for both of those books, so I was not surprised to hear that Hemingway filled handwritten journals in 6 weeks with the first draft of the manuscript that offers the wistful sentiment, "isn't it pretty to think so." And, your heart will crack a little when thirty years later (when they're married to other people), "Tatie" calls up his true love and reminisces about those heady days they shared in Jazz Age Paris with "Mister Bumby," Miss Stein, Ezra Pound and Sylvia Beach as he tells Hadley about the collection of personal essays he's working on. They were published posthumously, after Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun in the same way that Hadley's own father had.
Hadley Richardson may indeed have been Hemingway's PARIS WIFE, and it seems here, in this rapt telling of her tale, that she's the one who mattered most.