Ernest Hemingway's First Wife Tells All
The movie Midnight in Paris
showcased the ex-pat writers in 1920's Paris: Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Their stories are enthralling. As Mary Chapin Carpenter says, "After nearly a century, there is a reason that the Lost Generation and Paris in the 1920s still fascinate. It was a unique intersection of time and place, people and inspiration, romance and intrigue, betrayal and tragedy."
Paula McLain adeptly captures this intersection in her novel The Paris Wife
--a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife, Hadley Richardson. I definitely experienced the spark of burgeoning art, the lost feelings following WWI, and the sadness of an unraveling marriage.
Hadley is a twenty-eight-year-old from St. Louis who has a humdrum life until she meets Ernest Hemingway in Chicago. He's a war hero who wants to be a writer, and she falls for his passion and strength. He continues to pursue her when she returns to St. Louis, and they eventually marry. At times they're barely scraping by, but Ernest pursues his art with the support of Hadley. They move to Paris to help his writing career.
It seems like both Ernest and Hadley suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder--him from the war and her from multiple deaths in her family. They are solid midwesterners who have lost their footing, and socializing with the hard-drinking, amoral crowd in Paris doesn't help their marriage.
I really enjoyed insights into Ernest honing his writing craft. Gertrude Stein tells him:"The poems are very good. Simple and quite clear. You're not posing at anything. . . Strong declarative sentences, that's what you do best. Stick to that . . . When you begin over, leave only what's truly needed."
Yet it's not an easy road for one of America's greatest writers. The struggle to pen his first novel is fraught with rejection from publishers and his family. When he finally breaks through with his first publication, Hadley knows:He would never again be unknown. We would never again be this happy.
How sad. There's a real melancholy feel to this well-written novel. The few choices available to women in the 1920's are frustrating, and the way Hadley has to deal with Ernest's wandering eye is appalling.
After finishing this book, I want to reread [b:The Sun Also Rises|3876|The Sun Also Rises|Ernest Hemingway|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1331828228s/3876.jpg|589497], and I look forward to the movie version of The Great Gatsby