A Moveable Feast – The Paris Wife

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If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
-Ernest Hemingway

When I put down Paula McLain’s novel, The Paris Wife, I was saddened by the ending, even though I had known the story would end that way. The sadness evaporated into awe when I thought about the fact that this romance was a true story, and that the quiet yet strong main character, Hadley Richardson, was Ernest Hemingway’s first wife out of four.

Paula McLain’s story remains true to everything that is known about the time Ernest and Hadley spent together in Paris. Hadley had always been portrayed as a bit bland and boring in the things I had read before this, and so the emotion and life given to her in this novel is strikingly real.

Hadley doesn’t have the same “exciting” hobbies as the artists around her in Paris, except for her occasional time spent playing a piano. But as I read the story, I followed her through her time in Paris, knowing how much she loved Ernest, seeing how hard she worked to make sure he knew he was loved and to keep him inspired, and feeling the stress of trying to continue on as a wife and a mother when the man you love may be physically there, but not always emotionally.

I imagined there were lots of other writers who worked in their own houses and could tolerate conversation at breakfast… who managed to sleep through any given night without stewing or pacing or scratching at a notebook while a single candle smoked and wavered. I missed Ernest’s company all day, but he didn’t seem to miss mine…
page 77 of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

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Despite the mood swings Ernest Hemingway went through as a writer, and his tendency to be unable to stay steady and reliable for his wife and eventual son, Hadley stayed by his side until she was literally pushed away by Ernest falling in love with a younger woman. I knew that that would happen – it’s common knowledge in literary history – and yet, I was still wishing as I read that somehow, while I was turning the pages of this novel, history would change and Ernest would realize that Hadley was the only woman for him.

According to his post-humous memoir, A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway did eventually come to this realization many years – and 3 marriages – too late.

I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

If you enjoy historical romance, I would definitely suggest you read The Paris Wife. Any reader will feel as if it is a fictional, fabulously well-written, doomed love story. This makes it all the more fascinating when you put down the book and think about the fact that it is based on the true story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, his muse and true love, Hadley Richardson.

This review was written as a part of my Before 25 Bucket List. Stay tuned for more!

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