Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Amanda Panda’s Book review for The Paris Wife by Paula McLain 

I ordered my book off of Amazon and when I opened my book a bunch of receipts fell out. All I can say is that this person shops at Target, Joann’s (twice), WinCo foods, and Family Christian. Fellow book owner, it was very interesting to see what you bought. lol 

But to the review! 

For this book, I purposefully didn’t look up information on Hadley. I wanted things to be a surprise, because the book was enjoyable from the start.  However, as an English Lit major for my undergrad degree, I already knew plenty about Ernest Hemingway to know what to expect. 

It’s rare for a book to hold my interest as much as this one did – especially when the book is not EXACTLY my cup of tea (it was very gendered and very book-clubby). 

To me, the book is a case study on marriage. The Modernists were very interesting characters despite their literature. My favorite parts included the glimpses of Stein and their (Hadley and Hemingway’s) interactions with her and Alice. 

If you like the Modernists, then you will like this book – because it offers a perspective on them that I had not considered before (the perspective of an outsider so close to them). It was also very interesting to see/consider how the publishing industry functioned WAY BACK WHEN. Things sure have changed now.

Side note, I want a Gertrude Stein of my very own, thank you. 

Though my view of Hemingway did not change after I read this book (I do not like Hemingway as a person. He is too cruel and too-self involved) I learned about Hadley and grew to dislike her. In fact, I like Hemingway more than her. Not because she is as messed up as Hemingway or anything, but because she is more selfish than he was. Well…at least her character in this book was. 

Even I resented her for losing Hemingway’s manuscript. But I resented her more when she was careless about her birth control. She knew who Hemingway ‘was’ deep down and why the HELL would she want to produce offspring with him? She was the most selfish character in this book. 

But I will stop ranting. 

My overall judgment of this book: It is worth reading. Especially if you need something to calm you down after watching The Great Gatsby.  But it won’t change your life… It will certainly leave you reconsidering your life choices, but it won’t change your life. Was a B book. 

But, Good pick for the list, Hel! 

Hel Speak:

I've been wanting to read this book for years, after I heard a review of it on NPR. I've always hated Hemingway - both his writing and his person. But I am fascinated by the roaring twenties, Paris life, and the authors that Hadley socialized with, grew with.

In a way, this book broke my heart. By its accounts, the authors I've always admired - like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound - are scum. Not to mention the women they engaged with. There were few decent people in the world, according to this book - or, at least, Hadley never really came across any of them. Maybe that is her character flaw.

I didn't hate Hadley herself, at least not while I was reading it. I was too busy feeling sorry for her. But, looking back, I wonder what kind of a person she must have been to let Hemingway treat her the way he did. I don't care if you love someone. You must also love and respect yourself, and she didn't do that. If she did, she wouldn't have let Hemingway's mistress move in with them. She should have stuck up for herself, in many ways. As a mother, I was also shocked by her ability to leave her infant son behind with a nanny for weeks at a time. What kind of a parent does that??

Hemingway was an ass, and we all know that. I didn't expect this book to change my opinion of him. It actually did change my opinion, but not for the better. In the book, we caught brief glimpses of situations from Hemingway's point of view. It showed that he wasn't just completely lacking in empathy. He knew he was hurting people, he just didn't care enough to stop. He was too selfish. It was almost like he thrived off of it. Hurting people DID hurt him, but maybe in a positive way - it inspired him.

As far as the writing goes, I have no complaints. It is neither bad nor mind blowing. This is the type of book where the story over shadows everything else, including the writing. However,  I really admire the authors ability to paint such a passionate and complete picture. It's as if she had really been there. The research that went into this book must have been immense.

I agree with Panda on her final thoughts: it's a good book to read, but it won't change your life. I give it a B++.



This wraps up our first year of 12 books in 12 months! It’s been bumpy, but fun. We’ve finally got the groove of things, and so we won’t stop now. HOWEVER: 

Next “year” we’ll be mixing it up by genre – instead of overtly reading the same book at the same time, Hel and I will be reading books from the same genre.  It might mean we read the same book, but it also means we have freedom to seek out whatever our fancy within the same genre.

BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU? That (potentially) means double the titles covered – and that means double the reviews that can help you form an opinion about whether or not you should read a certain book. 

Watch the blog for more news about this change!

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