The Paris Wife tells the story of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to Hadley Richardson, from its beginning to its end. Although Ernest Hemingway's name is one of the things that would make you read this book, the main character really is Hadley Richardson - his first wife and big love.
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When they first meet in Chicago in the 1920s, Ernest is only 20 years old and Hadley - 28. After a short emotional romance, Ernest proposes marriage. Hadley happily accepts - not only because she loves him, but because her time for marriage has come and gone, according to traditions during this period.
Since Ernest craves an interesting life, which would give him inspiration to write, the couple moves to Paris and settles for living in a small flat in a bad neighborhood. Ernest has been in Paris during the First World War and he loves it, while Hadley needs time to get used to the city of lights.
One thing is certain - Paris is nothing if not interesting in the era of Jazz. Hemingway's family are in love and full of dreams, while they create their life there, among people like Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. Hadley has difficulties fitting in, since she finds herself feeling drawn to simple, loving family life and is surrounded by new type of women - women, craving adventures, career; wearing Chanel and looking as if they are constantly starving. Ernest's character and his job can sometimes be quite difficult, which is another challenge for her. On one of his trips, when he is sent as a journalist to report a war in Turkey, he cheats on Hadley for the very first time.
On another trip - one to Italy, that Hadley is welcome to join, they have one of their biggest fights, after she loses all his manuscripts on the train. Hemingway is heartbroken. Before they manage to recover from this, Hadley realizes she is pregnant with their son. Ernest is nor happy about the news, but rather links the pregnancy with the loss of his manuscripts and in his mind focuses mainly on all the ways his beautiful wife is "trying" to ruin his career.
After the baby comes, the young writer tries to be more responsible. The couple even moves to Canada, because Ernest is offered a well paid journalist position. This only lasts four months, since Ernest ends up in a big fight with his boss and dreams about Paris again.
Back in France with their son, the family's life is seemingly going well. They find better accommodation, although they can barely afford it, and return to the comfort of known streets and people. However, it does not take long for Hadley to realize the fragile world she is living in. Their monogamist relationship is not one to fit with Paris bohemian values at the time. While couples around them fail, reunite, seek freedom in affairs and alcohol, The Paris Wife becomes more and more cautious of the way Ernest looks at other women.
During a visit in one their friends homes, Ernest and Hadley meet Pauline Pfeiffer. Pauline is a thin and elegant writer for Vogue and is coming from wealthy family. Her class and looks can not compare to Hadley's body after the birth, neither with the lack of time and money her appearances show. Hemingway's wife sees a threat immediately, but even though she doesn't want to, she realizes she likes Pauline and the journalist soon becomes close friend to the family.
Which is what makes it so much more harder for Hadley to understand and accept the betrayal, when Ernest leaves her and their son to mary Pauline.
It is before his death and after three more marriages that Ernest Hemingway admits Hadley Richardson was the love of his life.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story shows true love in times, when people wake up to discover freedom. It tests this love to find out it is fragile, but at the same time puts right before of us the fact of how real it is.
Best scene in story:
Even though the book has many strong scenes, describing Ernest's need for attention and approval, the strongest moment is at the end - when, after tens of years, Ernest calls Hadley and admits his weakness. It almost feels like he broke under the heaviness of his ego.
Opinion about the main character:
Hadley Richardson is the right woman for a man like Ernest Hemingway and she shows it in all possible ways. The true meaning of her pain screams that when you are Ernest Hemingway's wife, all you can ever be is Ernest Hemingway's wife. Then even that's not enough. But she takes it with dignity.