Book Review – A Paris Wife

I’ve decided not to summarize the entire book when I do a review, because summaries are a dime a dozen. Whenever I want to read a book, I look to find out what other readers thought of the book, so that’s what I’m giving you – my thougts.

A Paris Wife - Book Review


A Paris Wife sucked me in by the end of the very first chapter.  The more I read, the more I wanted to read.

I think the author, Paula McLain, has a touch of the great classic American authors in her, or maybe she just fed off the genius of her subject.  I would very much be interested to read her other writings.

Through the pages of this book, I was transported into someone else’s world.  The Paris Wife focuses on Earnest Hemingway’s first wife, the early wife, as some refer to her.  The setting is post World War One – the Roaring Twenties.  If I could go back and visit a period of time, I would love to go to the Twenties.  So much of it fascinates and captivates me, and it’s not just the bobbed hair and fringed dresses that twirl and swirl, although I like those very much.

Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, was good and true and noble and solid.  Hemingway was intense and emotionally charged.  He was moved with passions that had little reason or explanation.

This book is really about Hadley.  She seemed good for Hemingway, just the grounding he needed.  It’s such a shame he threw his marriage away for another woman who didn’t last and then another and another.  In all he was married four times with several other woman along the way.  It seems each was a chapter, another part of his story.

I know someone mentioned they quit reading this book, because they didn’t want to read of Hemingway’s affairs.  There is sex in the book, maybe four or five scenes.  This is one of those books where I wouldn’t necessarily recommend throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  You could easily skip a paragraph or two if you prefer and lose nothing from the story.  However, if it’s a real problem for you, than this may not be the book for you.

So many things in this book stood out to me, made me think.

I was struck by how all the great artists of that time sought each other out, creating a scene, whether in Paris or elsewhere.  They fed off each others creativity.  They helped make each other great.

Hemingway hung with the likes of Stein, and Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and more.  I would love to have been one of the ones reading pieces of their unfinished works, the early copies scrawled onto page after page of ordinary paper.

The Paris Wife is a novel.  I had to keep reminding myself of that; however, the author wrote closely to the facts.  So much is documented about Hemingway’s life, much by Hemingway himself.  I think it’s probably as close to fact as fiction can get.

Earnest said in reference to his nonfiction work A Moveable Feast, “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction.  But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”  (A Moveable Feast, Preface)

I think the lines between fact and fiction blur in most of our lives.

I loved this book.

It was by far the best book I’ve read all summer, and while I understand why it’s not a novel for everyone, I’m glad I added it to my summer reading list.

Now I look forward to going back and reading some of Earnest Hemingway’s own works.

I went to the library and brought home a stack of Hemingway’s books.  I haven’t read him in years, not since I was a student too worried about passing a class to give a book it’s due honor and attention.


Have you read A Paris Wife?

What did you think, and are you fan of Hemingway’s writings?

Do you think the creative people of today migrate towards each, forming a bond, and pushing each other toward greatness, or is that a thing of the past?


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  1. says

    I really liked “The Paris Wife” too! It was really well-written and it definitely sucked me in. I didn’t know a lot of the Hemingway’s history, but mid-way through the story, I figured out their marriage was doomed, so it made the book pretty sad. But it was still a good read!

  2. says

    I have seen the book out and about. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it but I’m sure I will now! I’ve seen cafes in Paris that Hemingway frequented.

  3. Erin says

    I haven’t read this but it’s on my to-read list. Now that I know it’s about Hemingway’s wife, well, I adore Hemingway. I loved reading “A Moveable Feast” because I’m fascinated by the idea of all those writers living and working together in that place and that time. I will definitely be reading this and soon.

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