Book Review: The Paris Wife

the paris wifeAuthor: Paula McLain

Published: November 27, 2012

About the Author: A California native, McLain spent most of her childhood in foster care and worked several odd jobs to support herself after adolescence. Upon discovering a passion and ability for writing, she received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. She has also published an additional novel, a memoir, and two collections of poetry.

Synopsis: This book details Ernest Hemingway’s early professional life through the eyes of his first wife, Hadley. From a heart-stopping courtship stateside, to the fast life of the roaring ’20s in Paris, and intense bullfights in Pamplona, Spain, this book certainly covers a lot of ground. However, it’s not your typical love story.

My Review

I picked up this book by chance whilst I was studying abroad off of a bookshelf that was in my apartment in Rome (passerby had left a wide variety of literature on said shelf). Having picked it up and put it down many a time over a two year time period, I recently finished the novel.

I wasn’t particularly thrilled about reading this given its “dainty” title, but I was desperate for anything to help me pass the time on my 9-hour plane ride home, so I just grabbed the first thing I saw. Surprisingly, I found this novel very enjoyable.

This book is more so a work of historical fiction than a romance novel.While it certainly includes aspects of love and human relationships, it also does an incredible job at providing descriptions of multiple domestic and international locations as they were in the 1920’s.

Beyond telling the story Hadley and Ernest’s marriage, McLain introduces other thought-leaders from the time period as key characters. Some of these include Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In the epilogue, McLain explains the extensive research that went into getting the details right for her novel.

At no point did this book drag, given its provocative events and spectacular settings that draw you in. Besides being a wildly entertaining novel, one can also learn something about European and American life in the post-WWI era from reading this book. As mentioned, I really didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.

Overall Impressions:

  • Thoroughly-researched with vivid descriptions of some of the world’s most glamorous and ordinary places
  • Wildly entertaining series of events and relationships between characters
  • You will want to pick up a Hemingway novel after reading this

The Verdict:




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