Okay, so school has kind of gotten in the way of my reading a book a week challenge, so this first book took a week and 2 days. I’m back on track with a Monday to Monday book week now.
For my first “Read a Book a Week” Challenge, I read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. The book follows the first marriage of author Earnest Hemingway to his wife Hadley. Though the book is based on their real marriage, it is a fictionalized telling of their life in Paris and their travels (and trials) around Europe. The book is mostly told from the perspective of Hadley, the devoted and insecure wife, but some important chapters, focusing on Hemingway’s affairs, are written in third-person, italicized prose. I loved this shift in perspective because it made Hemingway’s indiscretions that much more painful. Hadley was dutifully telling their story, but every so often the prose would switch; Hemingway would be distant and Hadley would have no idea about the affair. Furthermore, these shifts in perspective captured Hemingway’s short and direct writing style as if these were stories that Hemingway was telling himself.
Aside from the creative use of perspective, McLain does a beautiful job of developing Hadley and Hemingway’s relationship from the time they met throughout their time in Paris. She paints a clear picture of how in love they were with each other while highlighting the challenges of their relationships. It is a beautiful portrait of their marriage, but it puts the spotlight on Hadley, who spent their in Hemingway’s shadow but became her own woman in the process.
The novel also includes familiar characters who were friends of the Hemingways throughout their time in Paris, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and other literary figures. It’s fun to have these characters sprinkled in, adding a bit more depth to the literary world of Paris in the 1920s.
McLain’s writing is beautiful and inviting. I had a hard time putting the book down as I was swept into the wonderful story of Jazz Age Paris. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and strong characters!
Sticking with my theme of historical fiction and strong female characters, my next book is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Report to come next Monday!