Thoughts on “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain

This book has been in the pile beside my bed for a while. My wife had read it and thought I would enjoy it, and I did (she knows me well). I read most of it while traveling, and then stalled upon return (work and responsibilities took precedence), but I finally finished it.

Essentially, this is a work of historical fiction, telling the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, from the wife’s perspective. The writing is great and the story moves along nicely. And some of the dialog from the book reminded me of Hemingway’s style, which I thought was a nice touch.

During the part of the story where Hadley tells Ernest she is pregnant, the dialog is very similar to Hills Like White Elephants, which is especially poignant since that short story also deals with a discussion about pregnancy.

“You’re a strange one today.”

“You’re not in love with any actress in Paris, are you?”

“God, no.” He laughed.


“No one.”

“And you’ll stay with me always?”

“What is it, Kitty? Tell me.”

I met his eyes then. “I’m going to have a baby.”

“Now?” The alarm registered immediately.

“In the fall.”

“Please tell me it’s not true.”

“But it is. Be happy, Tiny. I want this.”

He sighed. “How long have you known?”

“Not long. A week maybe.”

“I’m not ready for this, not nearly.”

“You might be then. You might even be glad for it.”

“It’s been a hell of a few months.”

“You’ll work again. I know it’s coming.”

“Something’s coming,” he said darkly.

(pp. 146 – 7)

McLain does a great job of using metaphors in her tale. One that particularly resonated with me was the description of a false spring, symbolizing the false hope of renewed love.

Outside, the gray rain fell and fell. Where had spring gone? When I’d left for the Loire Valley, the leaves had been out on the trees, and the flowers were beginning to bloom, but now everything was drenched and drowned. It had been a false spring, a lie like all the other lies, and I found myself wondering if it would ever really come.

(p. 259)

Overall, Hemingway comes across as a fairly despicable character, which does not surprise me. He’s misogynistic and driven by ego, and just kind of a jerk. He did write some great books, though. I’m thinking that it might be time to go back and re-read For Whom the Bell Tolls, one of my favorite Hemingway books that I read in my teens.

What about you? Do you have a favorite Hemingway novel?


Filed under Literature

16 responses to “Thoughts on “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain

  1. I read “The Paris Wife” a few years ago for a book club. It was roundly liked by all. I liked it too, but not as much as some. I’m not a fan of Hemingway’s books either. I lean more toward Faulkner’s long, rich prose. I like getting into people’s heads, and I was never able to get close to Hemingway’s characters. But it’s been a long time since I’ve read him. I’ll have to try again.

    • Faulkner and Hemingway are very different. I enjoy both writers, for different reasons. Also, when I was on my Hemingway kick, I was living in South Florida, so Key West was a frequent road trip. Easier to appreciate Hemingway after a night at Sloppy Joe’s 😉

  2. Marmi Le

    I liked this book, not sure how I came around to it since not a Hemingway fan! I remember not liking A Farewell To Arms in high school and thinking Old Man and The Sea was a long drawn out nothing burger a la Waiting For Godot. 🙂

    • Hi Marmi! Sure do miss you. Hope you and the family are well. I also read Farewell to Arms, although a long time ago (don’t remember too much of it). I have to say, I reread Old Man couple years ago, and liked it a lot more than when I read it in my youth. Tastes change. Anyway, thanks for commenting. Keep in touch!

      • Marmi Le

        I may have to reread OMATS as well if you say it gets better with age! Miss you and lots of (but not all) things about the Carolinas too! 🙂 Did you get to watch Oprah as this year’s USC commencement speaker? So jelly!!

      • Oprah was not the keynote at the main commencement (was some cancer scientist). She must have been at one of the individual school commencements. Have you been following the USC scandal, where the president was forced to step down?

      • Marmi Le

        You mean the med school scandal right? Yes I’ve been following it since I get LA Times notifications. It’s sad how it was really overshadowing all the good stuff that USC is doing for the community. 😦

      • Yeah, but covering it up was the wrong thing to do.

      • Marmi Le

        I’m sure you have heard the news about Anthony Bourdain. I just put a hold on his book at the library. Did you ever read it and would you write a post on it?

      • Yeah, pretty sad. Never read his book. I’m sure it’s good. Last “food” book I read was “Blood, Bones and Butter.” Quite good.

      • Marmi Le

        How funny you mention Blood Bones and Butter! I didn’t recognize the title but I am in NYC on vacay now and was thinking of a special place to eat for our last dinner tomorrow night. So I suggested Prune and I said to my husband, remember when we used to watch food network all the time, and Bobby Flay always won at Iron Chef except for this one time against this female chef, well her restaurant is called Prune. And that was years ago but still she won the James Beard Award just last month for best chef, so this place must be good. Therefore I looked her up and it mentioned she is working on her second memoir after the popularity of her first one called BBAB. Oh wow I thought, that’s the book Jeff mentioned! 🙂

      • Ha! Awesome! Let me know how the food is. I’m sure it’s spectacular.

      • Marmi Le

        Wound up not going 😦 I’ll try to read the book tho since you said it’s good! I really liked Julia Child’s memoir when she was living in France.

      • I think you will like it. My wife liked it and read the whole thing, and she is notorious for starting books and not finishing them.

  3. Hi Jeff, I just had to see what you thought of The Paris Wife because I read it and enjoyed it very much. I’m a big Hemingway fan (his writing, not the man – if you can separate them). His writing has always stayed with me. I have not read For Whom the Bell Tolls, however, so I must do that very soon.

    • Hi Barb. Hope you are doing well. I think you will like FWTBT. When I was on my Hemingway binge in my late teens, that was my fav. Let me know when you read it. Love to hear your thoughts on it. Cheers!