I usually read for pleasure or curiosity, and rarely does a book fall into my hands that actually has an impact on me personally. Only one other book has affected me in a way that made me evaluate my life, and that book was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Sure, it sounds corny that Gilbert’s novel (turned into a terrible movie adaptation – sorry) found a way into my heart and actually changed things for me, but it’s the truth. Well, I’ve finally found its counterpart in The Paris Wife. It is like these novels were meant to enter my life when they did, encouraging me in completely different ways. You’ll understand more here in a minute…
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, follows Hadley Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Told from Hadley’s point of view, McLain did an enormous amount of study and research to correctly portray the actions, emotions, and intense life of Hemingway’s first wife. Elizabeth Hadley Richardson hailed from St. Louis, grew up in a troubled family, and found herself at a crossroads in life during her mid to late 20s. It was then that she travelled to Chicago to visit friends, met Ernest Hemingway, and began an impassioned relationship with her soon-to-be husband. McLain’s novel follows their relationship from the beginning in Chicago, through their life in Paris, finishing with their demise five years later.
McLain’s novel is truly extraordinary. Following Hadley’s relationship with Ernest through her point-of-view evoked a bevy of emotions with every page. You feel her desire, her despair, her insecurities, her jealousy, her understanding, and most importantly, her love. There are times in novels that I want to scream at the characters for not being stronger or more courageous with their lovers, but in The Paris Wife you see everything through Hadley’s eyes, and her decisions makes sense, or are at the very least, understandable. Hadley and Ernest have a unique relationship, thanks to his all-encompassing passion and obsession with writing. Hadley laments and copes with the hardships that come with supporting Ernest, yet there is an ever-present build-up of conflict that the reader knows is going to result in destruction.
The Paris Wife was exactly what I needed right now in my life. I feel like I’ve been given a chance to do something I love and never thought I’d have the opportunity to dedicate so much time to: writing. I loved to do it more clinically in college, desired to write more freely and creatively after college, and I feel like I’ve found a middle ground with my blog through this experience moving abroad. It was both the style of writing in The Paris Wife, as well as their real experience abroad, that inspired and encouraged me to continue along this amazing path. I feel so blessed and grateful to be doing what I love!