Thursday, April 19, 2012

Audio Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Title: The Paris Wife

Author: Paula McLain
Genre: Fiction
Format: Unabridged Audio
Publisher: Random House
Source: Library

The Paris Wife is the fictional tale of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. I am probably one of the few people who have never read any Hemingway and know very little about him as an author or man. I enjoy discovering history through novels like this. A little bit historical. A little bit fiction. Definitely enjoyable.

I chose this in audio out of sheer impulse. It is in at my library. I needed one to listen to. There you go. I was hooked from the beginning. The narrator, Carrington McDuffie, was passionate and subtle in her reading of Hadley. She vocalized the strength I imagined the character to have but also the weakness and naivete as well.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wifecaptures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will becomeThe Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

The love story between Hadley and Hemingway was an unique one. She was older than him, quiet, reserved, old fashioned. He was young, impulsive and self absorbed.
Whether or not she grounded him or he opened her up, they worked and married during the exciting, passionate, turbulent early 1920s. They traveled, drank, smoked, debated, argued, wrote, and loved all over the world though most of the story takes place in Paris.

I loved traveling through it all with them. There is something wonderful when you get a really good audio narrator teamed with an exceptional well written novel. You get gleeful storytelling that keeps you on the edge of your seat wanting more.

This made me want to research Hemingway a bit more and possibly pick up a few of his books. Unfortunately after asking several friends of mine who passionately exclaimed, "I hate Hemingway! What an ass!", I suddenly became turned off. :) Perhaps I'll feel differently later. He was definitely portrayed as pompous but in that child like, self absorbed creative type. He was constantly in his head as a writer and demanded his time to write when he wanted it.

Much like Loving Frank, I enjoyed learning about a real couple. They were passionately smart people who, most of the times, brought out the best in one another. Though it's no surprise that the marriage did not last, the mutual respect continued the rest of their lives.

Rating: Recommend
This was beautifully written and narrated by an exceptional voice. I am so glad I picked it on a whim. For anyone interested in the literary past, this book has it all. Not only do you hear Hemingway's story, you get to hear snippets about Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and John Dos Passos. And you get a remarkable love story.

Book Club Pick?
Yes, I would recommend this for book clubs. We read Loving Frank and had a heated discussion about that one. I think this has similar themes that would create a stir.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Teresa said...

I've had this title sitting in my Audible wish list for quite awhile. I think I may go ahead and purchase it after reading your review.

Jenny said...

Ooh this sounds really good. All I've read of Hemingway is about half of A Farewell to Arms. I actually liked it but it was just one of those books that I never got around to finishing back in the day. I've been wanting to go back and read it. I actually liked his writing, though, so I'm not really sure what people are referring to when they say that!

Tales of Whimsy said...

I was considering this one. I love the cover.

For some reason, I had no idea this was based on Hemingway.

Don't feel bad. I'm from Florida and I don't know much about him.

You're description of this book instantly makes me think of the handsome, confident, slightly cocky, brooding way they interpreted him in Midnight in Paris. Have you seen it? You must now. It's totally 1920s Paris too. Well parts of it anyway.

Thanks for the awesome review.

You can not imagine how excited I am to see you listening to audios.

So you digging it so far?

Jill Buck said...

I read this one a couple months ago and it did make me less inclined to read a book by Hemingway. He really did seem self-absorbed and selfish, but I can see it as a good book club book as there are a lot of different interpretations of it.

Lisa said...

I swear I've read reviews of this book before but some how missed entirely that it was about Hemingway. Having just read The Sun Also Rises and with plans to read A Moveable Feast soon, I'm definitely on a Hemingway kick. think I'll have to pick this one up!

Bridge View Media said...

For your firsttaste, try his last book, "Islands in the Stream". And for an even richer (and real) story of his wives, try Martha Gelhorn--his 3rd and a fabulous personality and journalist in her own right.