AN EVOCATIVE TALE OF AMBITION & BETRAYAL — A REVIEW

They stood poised at the beginning of his promising writing career, forming a circle of friendships that included a group of expatriates living a Bohemian life in Paris; among them were such notables as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and many others.

Ernest Hemingway had met and married Hadley Richardson in Chicago, a woman a few years his senior. He had already launched his writing life, and to finance his writer’s journey, Hemingway worked as a journalist for a time. His burgeoning writing career seemed to exist hand in glove with a hard-drinking and fast-living cafĂ© life that did not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. In these years, Hadley struggled with jealousy and self-doubt; ultimately, something major would smash their dreams of a lasting love.

A sometimes volatile relationship can still have, at its basis, a deeply abiding friendship, which overrides any great romance or grand passion, although they apparently had their share of those moments.

McLain has created a fictionalized version of factual events, digging deeper beneath the emotional layers of what other writers have chronicled about this first marriage of Ernest Hemingway. He would go on to marry four times in all, and his tragic demise was like the epilogue to a brilliant but captivating journey.

How Hemingway created his novels was also a fascinating exploration into the writer’s life. During his first marriage, he created and published The Sun Also Rises.

Throughout The Paris Wife: A Novel, I found myself wishing that events might turn out differently, that there might be a happy ending after all. What I found most satisfying throughout this story, however, were the playful and loving connections created at a tumultuous phase in the lives of these two, and how these connections would sustain them through some difficult times: bonds that would link them even after the marriage had ended. In a letter to Hadley, Ernest wrote of his admiration for her, and how she was the “best and truest and loveliest person I have ever known.”

Themes of loss, childhood trauma, and poor parental connections formed the foundation for what would unfold for these two, and for Hemingway himself in the years that followed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this fascinating writer in the early years, with his “first love.” Five stars.