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The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to confess I have never read any Hemingway, the documentaries I have seen and the thought of all the bullfights has totally put me off. So when this book was sent for me to review by Virago I was intrigued, it is a work of fiction, but it is also strongly based on the memoirs of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife who is simply known as Hadley. I was gripped from the outset, they meet when Hadley has just lost her mother and at 28 given up on finding love and resigned herself to living a life with her sister who is in an unhappy marriage. It’s funny how they say life can change on a dime, when she goes to visit a friend in Chicago and meets Ernest Hemingway, then in his early 20s just back from the war, the two fall madly in love and set off on their adventure of life together. Their is an unconventional partnership, especially of the times, Hemingway is keen to be the writer he knows he is destined to be, and to live the bohemian life. They first plan to go to Italy and make a life there but then on the suggestion of a friend and a timely inheritance they set sail for Paris and make a life for themselves there. Its fascinating to read as if through their eyes the life they lead and the people they meet, it is the time of Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B Toklas, F Scott Fitzgerald is there having just written the Great Gatsby, James Joyce is said to be having children almost daily. It is a truly beautifully written book, you really get inside the relationship of these two. It is of course heartbreaking at the end, and I really felt the pain they were in fact both going through, though to be fair felt little sympathy for Ernest, who comes across as an arrogant self obsessed idiot, so my first impressions were confirmed. There is also a deep sadness in the book, and in fact if you look at the lives that have followed that sadness still permeates today.
I would highly recommend this book, and I feel it will stay with me for some time.

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